Carbone's Italian Sausage Deli is closing...maybe

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For the last several months, we've received text messages, e-mails and Facebook alerts that Carbone's, everyone's favorite Italian deli and market, is shuttering, which would break more than a few hearts -- including mine. And I've spoken to "Mama" Rosa Lonardo, the matriarch of Carbone's, a few times on the phone since the anguished cries of "Nooooooo!" first started in May, and she's hedged, sometimes saying that, yes, she's closing, while other times insisting that, no, she's not.

I spoke with her again today after chef/restaurateur Frank Bonanno posted a tweet that echoed what we've been dreading.

Today, at least, it's so. "I don't got no choice," she tells me in her thick Italian accent. "Nobody in the family wants to do this, and I can't do it anymore," she adds, noting that her sons may keep the wholesale business up and running. "That's an option, but they can't do both. It's just too much for them to carry on. You can't enjoy your family."

Rosa, who's 73 and in the deli every day that it's open, has been holding down the fort at Carbone's for the past 37 years, and in that time, she's never taken a break, never gone on vacation. "I haven't been to Italy in 29 years. I'm going to forget everything and go."

Or is she? At the end of our conversation, she paused: "I don't know. Maybe I'll stay open."

But if she does close, it'll be between her and her legendary meatball sandwiches. She'll do so on her own terms, with no fanfare, no big announcement, no hoopla.

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