A History of Greenpoint in 25 Buildings: Bamonte’s Restaurant
Bamonte’s Restaurant is not only the oldest restaurant in North Brooklyn; founded in 1900 by Italian immigrant Pasquale Bamonte, the restaurant claims to be the oldest Italian eatery in all of New York city. It was founded at a time when southern Greenpoint was a mecca for Italian immigrants. The restaurant has been run by the Bamonte family for four generations. It’s off the main drag, so you may have a hard time finding where the restaurant’s located—at 32 Withers Street—but it’s definitely worth the trip.
There’s a timeless, old world quality to Bamonte’s. The white tablecloth/red sauce joint that Pasquale opened generations ago has changed little. There are even wooden telephone booths with working phones. There was a time when the most important people in Italian-America came to Bamonte’s, and their photos are proudly displayed on the wall. DiNero, Sinatra and many others have passed through the doors. One of my favorite pictures is of Yankee great Joe Dimaggio taking his mother there for dinner. He was once a regular. I know a retired New York City fireman named Johnny Flats who as a young man used to drink in Bamonte’s, and was told in no uncertain terms not to talk to Joltin’ Joe when he came in for a beer.
There’s no mystery surrounding the classic Italian dishes they cook at Bamonte’s, because there’s a glass wall that allows diners to see right into the kitchen. Something new perhaps? Not at Bamonte’s—they installed the see-through kitchen window in 1950.
Bamonte’s was once a popular restaurant with the Italian mob. When local mobster Sonny Black Napolitano rubbed out Carmine Galante Bamonte’s closed down for a night and the heads of the five crime families held a celebratory dinner. In 1996 the place was raided by NYPD over allegations related to illegal gambling. When “Fat Tony” Rabito of the Bonnano crime family was released from federal penitentiary, one of the conditions of his release was that he not enter Bamonte’s. It’s not surprising that the place has appeared in many movies and TV shows, including the Sopranos, Person of Interest and Kojak, just to name a few.
The space has great old world charm; the dining room looks like a pre-WWII Southern Italian eatery. The tuxedoed waiters are also a throwback to a much earlier time. The deserts are delicious and also authentically old-school Italian.If you want to experience a timeless piece of Brooklyn’s Italian heritage, head to Bamonte’s.
Bamonte’s is located at 32 Withers Street.