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2022 Village Awardee: Bonsignour, 35 Jane Street

Each year, Village Preservation honors the invaluable people, businesses, and organizations that make a special contribution to our neighborhoods at our Annual Meeting and Village Awards. This year, on June 14, 2022, at 6 PM we will be celebrating seven outstanding awardees — RSVP HERE to attend in person and HERE to participate virtually via livestream.

Bonsignour at 35 Jane Street has been serving Villagers excellent freshly made food and drinks from a small storefront on the corner of Eighth Avenue for over thirty-five years. The space used to be occupied by Priscilla’s bakery. In the late 80s, Philippe Bonsignour, who had trained as a chef in France before starting his career as a sous-chef at La Côte Basque and Essex House, took over the space and opened the eponymous café. The new place expanded upon the former bakery’s menu to include sandwiches, salads, and heartier entrées. Philippe also added a few café tables to the small, indoor space, inviting people to linger. The bulk of its clientele, however, consisted (and consists to this day) of mostly Villagers getting breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to go.

About a decade later, Philippe and his wife Maude decided to spend a couple of years with their kids in the French Basque country; so they sold Bonsignour to their employee Danilo Romero. Since taking over the café, Danilo has only increased its neighborhood orientation. Its bulletin board overflows with announcements of community theater productions and tag sales, flyers from those seeking help and others seeking jobs, and even notes left by and for neighbors. A sign asks visitors with special needs or disabilities to summon a staffer for extra help. Danilo also installed alfresco benches installed out in front that have become magnets for Villagers as well as visitors. The seating draws an extraordinary cross-section of long standing residents, newly arrived young professionals, and foreign tourists. Every morning at 8am, a kaffeeklatsch of regulars gathers at the benches to caffeinate, meet neighbors, and share gossip. A daily menagerie of dogs (and, on at least one occasion, a cat) lap from the water dish left by the entryway. During the World Cup and other soccer tournaments, Danni has set up a jumbo screen to broadcast the games, adding folding chairs to accommodate any or all who wander by during the match, regardless of whether or not they patronized the café. The set up became so popular that he had to ask the 6th Precinct to add barriers to ensure that the crowds don’t spill too far out into the street.

Bonsignour didn’t close a single day during the pandemic. Danni invested in extra seating, planters brimming with greenery, and deluxe patio umbrellas. Undertaken even as business suffered, these upgrades ensured that “the benches” could remain a gathering spot for the neighborhood, rain or shine, while indoor dining was suspended and social distancing obtained. It also ensured that no one would have to do without any of Bonsignour’s renowned specialties: the curry chicken salad (a Village Preservation favorite), the French ham and havarti, and the decadent lattes, to say nothing of welcoming helpful staff.

In a time of disruption and amid a crisis of loneliness, Bonsignour offers conversation, connection, and community (not to mention great coffee and fine food). Danni and team’s efforts in recent months have made their business a symbol of continuity, positivity, and resilience in our beloved Greenwich Village.

Don’t miss out when Bonsignour accepts its award on June 14th. RSVP HERE to attend in person and HERE to participate virtually via livestream. Learn more about our annual meeting and awards, including past awardees and videos of past ceremonies, here.

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