From the Kitchen

Bar named ‘Marshall Street’ brings a piece of Syracuse to the Big Apple

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

The Big Apple Orange, Syracuse University's alumni club located in New York City, said the organization is in talks to make Marshall Street Bar an affiliate.

New York City is a hotspot for Syracuse University graduates, boasting more than 50,000 alumni who bleed orange, according to the university’s New York City website. Having the No. 1 nationwide concentration of SU grads, New York City offers many venues for SU alumni to watch games and reunite with old friends.

Now after six months of business, alumni and fans have another place they can call home.

About 193 miles away from the actual street in Syracuse is Marshall Street Bar and Restaurant, located in Manhattan’s Midtown East on 49th Street and 2nd Avenue. The owners aren’t SU graduates — Rob Gerola graduated from Le Moyne College in 1991, and Jimmy Cafiero graduated from Pace University in 2012. But they are big fans of SU basketball, particularly Gerola who has been watching since high school. They didn’t want to create just another sports bar in New York, so they opened up shop with the Marshall Street name, pulling ideas from the real street’s bars to create an SU-themed bar in the Big Apple.

Cafiero said the bar was originally going to have a live music theme, but about one month before opening, they realized that was a mistake. The partners had to pivot.

“(Gerola) came to me and asked me if I was okay with it because I’m not a Syracuse alumnus, but I was all for it,” Cafiero said. “I’m a ‘Cuse fan, and I know a ton of people that went there. It’s really the only college you can root for if you’re a big hoops fan from New York.”

Cafiero had not been to SU before they decided on the theme, so Gerola gave him a tour. The two immersed themselves in SU’s bar scene, visiting Marshall Street and its staples — Orange Crate Brewing Company, Chuck’s Cafe, Harry’s Bar and DJ’s on the Hill. After two visits, Cafiero quickly found the bar scene to have a casual atmosphere.

“We didn’t want to open a fancy high-end sports bar and call it a Syracuse bar,” Cafiero said, “because that’s not the kind of bar you go to when you’re up in Syracuse.”

Gerola is familiar with the bar scene in New York City — he’s the owner of American Trash and has owned a few bars that have since closed. The partners met at one of Gerola’s bars, and when Cafiero was presented with the opportunity to partner up for the new venture, he jumped on it.

Gerola said he has followed his entrepreneurial spirit after graduating from Le Moyne College. Opening a bar in New York City comes with high rent and a lot of “red tape,” Gerola said, but it has been fun to persevere.

David Baer, co-president of New York City’s SU alumni club, Big Apple Orange, said that the organization is in talks to make Marshall Street Bar an affiliate. The club has one official game bar, 5th&Mad, but has multiple affiliate bars: Village Pourhouse Downtown, East End Bar & Grill and The Montrose. The venue is smaller in scope, though, compared to some of its other affiliate bars, so he said they will get creative when it comes time to schedule events. He mentioned trivia night and a smaller scale happy hour as options.

“I think that you can’t have too many Syracuse bars,” Baer said. “It’s great whenever you see the blue and orange hanging outside. It’s another place that alumni can get together and feel connected with the university, and that’s always a good thing.”

Since opening in September, Marshall Street has already experienced success. Cafiero said he told the bartender who was opening up on the morning of the Syracuse-Clemson football game to expect a light crowd as Clemson was expected to demolish SU, which they did 54-0. Cafiero was in no hurry to go to the bar for the game but when he checked the cameras on his smartphone, he saw that the bar was packed.

Marshall Street features pool tables, Skee-Ball machines and a basketball free throw game, along with space for 140 people. The restaurant’s signature is its Atomic Wings, which Gerola describes as “authentically upstate buffalo style wings.” Besides traditional flavors like mild, hot and barbecue, the wings also come in other flavors: suicidal, jerk barbecue and garlic parmesan. The menu also offers a variety of burgers, salads and sandwiches.

Robert Britton, who graduated from SU in 2014, said Marshall Street reminds him of Varsity Pizza but with more of a bar feel. He particularly enjoys running into old friends from school when he goes there.

“Marshall Street reminds me of Lucy’s more than anything,” said Ben Adams, a Class of 2015 alumnus. “The color scheme and the memorabilia on the walls makes me want to order a fish bowl.”

The bar is equipped with Syracuse memorabilia and a sound system to make customers feel as if they’re at the game.

“We’d like to be the premier Syracuse alumni gathering spot,” Gerola said. “We want to be the number one sports bar in Midtown, and we’d like to be the go-to place for any game.”

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