Andrew Balducci, owner of the famous Balducci’s specialty foods and produce market, died on March 22, 2018 at the age of 92 of acute leukemia.
Born in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to Maria Miscioscia and Louis Balducci, he spent his childhood in Corato, Italy, before emigrating back to the United States at the age of 14. During WWII, he enlisted in the US Navy at age 18 where he participated in the invasion of Normandy, sustaining injuries and being hospitalized for six months. His father purchased a storefront in Greenwich Village in 1946, which coincided with Balducci’s release from the hospital and the beginning of the landmark gourmet store.
In 1968, after working for eight years as a mason for his father-in-law, Andrew returned to the family’s market where quadrupling rent forced a move across the street but also provided an opportunity to expand and fulfill his vision to create a European-style food emporium.
Already having the reputation for purveying the finest produce in the city, in 1972 Balducci began importing specialty meats from Italy and other exotic items such as Iranian caviar, French foie gras, and Spanish Serrano ham for the first time, exposing his customers to delicacies that were rare for that time.
Balducci’s already had a great reputation, with famous food writer James Beard being one of its regulars. However, the expansion made Balducci’s even more popular among restaurateurs — chefs who eventually asked if the grocer would be able to deliver bulk produce to their restaurants. This lead to the creation of Baldor, the store’s wholesale division, which operates to this day.
T.J. Murphy, Balducci’s grandson and current CEO of Baldor Specialty Foods, says of his grandfather: “I looked up to and learned from him the same way I did my father, Kevin Murphy, who often cited Andy as the person who taught him everything he knew about food; Andy helped shape the way he ran and built Baldor. They both believed that the love of good food was shared by many and that food brought people together. They were tremendous risk takers who had the courage to make their big move when the timing was right. Without Andy Balducci, there would be no Baldor. My biggest challenge has been to not only live up to their legacy, but to continue to take risks as they did to keep our businesses growing and relevant in today’s food-centric culture. He was an amazing person who thrived off interaction, and I will forever implement his thoughts and views as I run and grow the company.”
Balducci’s parents continued to work at the store until the mid-eighties and eventually the store was sold in 1998 after which, Balducci and his wife Nina spent their retirement in Long Island and the Bahamas. He is survived by his wife, his sister Grace Doria, daughters Marta and Andrea Balducci, six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.