October is Italian-American Heritage Month, and you know what that means: it’s time to stuff your face with pasta, pizza, antipasti, and secondi. Fortunately for your wallet, there’s Italian Restaurant Week, October 8-15, featuring over 40 participating restaurants all over the borough. Special lunch menus are available at most restaurants for $15-$20, and dinners for $25-$30. Buon Appetito!
Bella Gioia | via Facebook
Bella Gioia NYC (Park Slope)
The name means “beautiful joy,” or “delight,” and there are plenty of delights to be sampled at this purveyor of “Sicilian comfort food.” Bella Gioia’s specialty is their cured meat and cheese plates, though diners also swear by such classic appetizers as fried calamari and arancini — stuffed rice balls served with four dipping sauces. Other dishes that come highly recommended are the orange and fennel salad and the rigatoni alla Norma, a pasta dish featuring an eggplant, mozzarella, and ricotta red sauce.
Sausage roll | Angela R. via Yelp
La Sorrentina (Dyker Heights)
This restaurant, with its giant portions of steak, seafood, and Italian food, has been in the neighborhood for over 20 years. The menu is more typical of the Italian-American restaurants you went to as a kid, with standards like chicken alla parmigiana, fettucine alfredo, and shrimp scampi.
Grilled green tomato salad | via Facebook
Marco Polo Ristorante (Carroll Gardens)
A popular fixture in a neighborhood that was once primarily working-class Italian, Marco Polo updated both its decor and its menu in 2012. Its dishes are a mix of northern and southern Italian cuisine, including Venetian black seafood risotto, pappardelle with Tuscan veal ragu and fava beans, and braised lamb shank.
Some fresh meats | via Facebook
L’Albero dei Gelati (Park Slope)
Though this café is know mostly for its gelato — including such unusual and savory flavors as saffron, zucchini flower and red bell pepper — the “tree of gelato” also offers organic soups and salads, homemade panini and frittate, and a lovely selection of wines and cheeses. There’s even a special room for children, and the restaurant, as you would expect in Park Slope, is committed to sustainable practices.
Scopello | via Facebook
Scopello (Fort Greene)
Named after a small village in Sicily, this Fort Greene restaurant has become a favorite for people seeing shows at the nearby Brooklyn Academy of Music. It’s known for its very friendly staff and seafood favorites such as the tuna carpaccio with shaved fennel, linguine with clams and shrimp, and grilled sardines with roasted potatoes. If you’re not into seafood, though, don’t worry. There are plenty of lamb, beef, and chicken dishes — including polpette della mamma, or Mom’s meatballs — as well as delicious vegetarian options.
Fresh sandwich | Joshua F. via Foursquare
Broccolino (Park Slope)
Named after a funny translation of “Brooklyn” by recent Italian immigrants, this casual ristorante gets glowing reviews for its fresh pasta, which includes, for the health-conscious, a whole-wheat fettucinne and a gluten-free fusilli. Other favorites include the Bruschetta Broccolino, the shaved Brussels sprouts salad, and the gnocchi of the day.
Stuffed clams | via Foursquare
Gargiulo’s Restaurant (Coney Island)
If you’re in Coney Island and would like something a little more substantial than a hot dog or a funnel cake, locals know to head to Gargiulo’s. A neighborhood institution since 1907, Gargiulo’s offers “traditional Neapolitan cuisine” as well as rooms for parties and weddings for up to 400 people. You won’t need a translator to help you decipher the menu, which features standards such as veal marsala, ravioli, and pasta e fagioli (or, for you Neapolitan-Americans, “pasta fazool.”)
Mussels night | Salvator R. via Yelp
Mama Rao’s (Dyker Heights)
This neighborhood favorite boasts warm and attentive service (owner Sal and his wife are frequently mentioned in reviews) and a dynamite menu — patrons wax poetic about everything from their bread basket to the complimentary lemon cookies that are served with dessert. The pasta is all homemade, of course, and meat dishes run the gamut from the pollo ripieno (chicken stuffed with prosciutto, spinach, and cheese) to pork and lamb chops.
For a full list of participating restaurants and more info, check out Italian Restaurant Week.