There are more than a few neighborhoods in Brooklyn with strong Italian roots. These days, most areas are a diverse mix of new arrivals and older residents, but that classic Italian heritage remains, especially when it comes to food. Here are a few neighborhood classics not to miss. Mangia!
Named for Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, Carroll Gardens has long been an Italian neighborhood, a fact made clear by the mom-and-pop restaurants and storefronts along Smith and Court Streets, the two main drags.
Capesante con piselli | Queen Restaurant
Queen Restaurant, though technically in Brooklyn Heights, deserves a mention because it’s so close to Carroll Gardens and is a family-owned restaurant. Brothers Pasquino and Vincent Vitiello took over cooking from their father, Anthony, who opened the restaurant in 1958. The pollo alla fiorentina and house-made mozzarella are not to be missed, nor is the zabaglione when it comes time for dessert.
An Easter tradition | Mazzola Bakery
Marco Polo has a great selection of fish dishes and a raw bar. Their excellent pastas include fettuccine al vino rosso, which is tossed, table-side, in a hollowed out parmesan wheel. If you’re more inclined to snack than to dine, check out Court Pastry (for the sfogliatelle or lobster tail pastry), Mazzola Bakery (for the lard bread) and Caputo’s (Italian specialties of all kinds, from meats, cheese, and olive oils to breads and pastas). Get cannoli at each one and compare!
The southern half of Brooklyn is filled with Italian enclaves including Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge. When looking for family owned and run restaurants, Gino’s Restaurant in Bay Ridge is your go-to for the Italian triple-threat – pasta, pizza, and dessert. Dyker Heights offers an array of great restaurants including Chef Andrea, Mama Rao’s and La Sorrentina, all traditional restaurants, with amazing Italian fare.
For a simple, Italian-style panini, locals enjoy quiet afternoons at Panino Rustico in Bensonhurst. From panini filled with prosciutto, mozzarella and broccoli rabe, to crepes, and delicious coffee options, you can’t beat a lunch like this. Also in Bensonhurst, people come from all over for a slice of Europa brick oven pizza. Even though you’d be crazy to NOT get a pie, their salad and entree options are just as great. Looking for dessert? Get the best canoli, gelato and espresso in NYC at Villabate-Alba Pasticceria. All of their products are imported from the motherland as authenticity and freshness are key!
Waterfront dining can also be found in Brooklyn. After spending a night riding the Cyclone in Coney Island, you can have some of the best baked calamari in the area at Gargiulo’s Restaurant, a neighborhood staple since 1907.On the water in Sheepshead Bay, Randazzo’s Clam Bar specializes in seafood, with a raw bar, spicy scungilli, and shrimp Randazzo, a mixed seafood pasta dish with lemon, garlic, butter and wine.
Law & Order: SVU, filmed at Bamonte’s | NBC
While waterfront Williamsburg is better known for condo towers and high-end shopping, once you pass Union Street you’ll catch sight of sign posts and mailboxes painted in the colors of the Italian flag.
Bamonte’s has been around for more than 100 years, and the massive dining room, full bar, and old-school, tuxedoed waiters make it a popular choice for a Saturday night or special occasion. The mussels marinara, gnocchi and eggplant parmigiana are the way to go here. It was also featured as the setting for a retirement party on a recent episode of “Law & Order: SVU.”
Mussels in the kitchen | Frost Restaurant
Frost Restaurant is more of a seafood destination, tucked away on a quiet side street near Graham Avenue. The Shrimp fra diavolo or baked clams are great choices, as is the linguini with clam sauce.