Archestratus (160 Huron St) is definitely the spot in the neighborhood for picking up cookbooks (new and used), food magazines, cute stationary, and gourmet food stuffs. The store has been open for about a year-and-a-half now and has become one of the “the spots” in the neighborhood, most likely because the owner, Paige Lipari, hosts various community events every month. But Archestratus isn’t just good for kitchen things and crafts night, the back café is one of the best places to chill out with a book, or to stop by for lunch. Yes, lunch! Continue reading
“With this finger, I tasted the world.” Massimiliano Nanni raises his right pointer finger while recounting his childhood in Rimini, Italy, where his mother, Lella Alimentari’s namesake, ran a popular restaurant. “I would sit at the counter of the kitchen and I taste the papaya, I taste the kiwi—nobody have a kiwi in Italy, I come from a place with the truffle—I eat the frog, I eat the eel, I eat the snake. We want to try everything. This was my childhood.”
Nanni, known to friends as Chicco, met his wife, Paola Cittero while working on an Italian aquatic TV show. He was a diving assistant, she was the production designer. This is a funny detail given the strong Life Aquatic vibe in the café they’ve created. Between Nanni’s normally red cap (today it is pink) and quirky demeanor, Cittero’s blue jumpsuit and the vintage toys and uneven hand stamped signage, I can practically hear Seau Jorge strumming Bowie tunes.
Nanni’s been in the restaurant biz since 1995 when he opened Piadina in the West Village. In the intervening years, he’s opened many other restaurants, including the popular wood-fired pizza superstar Saraghina in Bed-Stuy, which Cittero designed and which feels like a big brother to the more intimate Lella (325 Manhattan Avenue). Nanni left Saraghina in 2011 and opened a now-shuttered seafood restaurant before hopping over to Williamsburg. The location was intentional, just across the street from PS 132 where Nanni and Cittero’s children go to school. After school, the kids hang out among the locals, many of whom are on laptops. “We don’t like to say we are chefs,” says Cittero, “we just cook. We’re cooking. We are both food lovers. I’m a production designer, an artist, we consider this our cafeteria. We are making food we usually make at home, that we give out to our kids.”
Lella’s specialty is the piadina, a sort of Italian quesadilla that’s popular in Nanni’s hometown. Every day he makes the piadina bread, then stuffs it with ingredients like roasted seasonal veggies and stracchino, a luscious unripened Italian cheese. Nothing is fussy, just fresh ingredients prepared beautifully; a poached egg over cauliflower, bacon, and chickpeas. Potato leek soup with speck. Burrata with roasted beets and carrots. They also have homemade pastries, quiche, and salads, most often topped with a poached egg.
Lella’s vibe is laid back cool and playful. It is European-feeling and whimsical without a hint of pretension. Toy trucks huddle near a vase of yellow tulips. A battered metal crock overflows with potatoes. The tin ceilings are whitewashed, walls are lined with Italian goods, books, an old scale. Art magazines and vintage action figures are scattered about. Lella is warm and chummy, just four sun-drenched booths and a communal table.
One of my favorite design elements is the handy takeaway window. “We sell the coffee by the window and we get all the people with dogs,” says Cittero. “Bike. Stroller. For me, it was like decoration, but we get the dog community.”
Nanni is already dreaming of his next venture: to host a program training former convicts as pizzaiolos. He’s eyeing a location in Brooklyn’s Navy Yard. “The Pizzaiolo was teaching to the penitentiary in my town. These men, what they went through, most of the time it’s really traumatic. They need to be working, working, working. They will learn fast. It will help them.”
“Art, food and a lot of love,” Cittero says as she glances at Nanni who is in the kitchen dancing to The Human League. “We keep busy.” She smiles and looks out the window. “And just look at this beautiful light.”
Lella Alimentari | 325 Manhattan Avenue
Open 8am to 7pm every day
As 2016 came to an end, Michelin-starred Luksus shut its doors in the back room of Tørst (615 Manhattan Ave), adding to the pile of restaurant closings in our area. For a moment it seemed that Tørst would revert entirely to a Nordic beer bar with a few bites. But all hope is not lost, Chef Jesus “Chuy” Cervantes, who worked at Cosme before spending two years under Chef Burns at Luksus, was ready to over the food program at Tørst and bring it to the next level. A recent lunch—yes, Tørst is open for lunch—showed there are still many Nordic influences on the expanded menu along with some quite delectable bread, but now they also have excellent takes on regular bar food. Continue reading
Sundays normally bring brunch to mind for any New Yorker. Sunday in Brooklyn (348 Wythe Ave.) is much more than that. Open daily for brunch, lunch and dinner this tri-level restaurant is like a fashion house of food. At “Sunday” there is creative use of fresh ingredients—even the scraps are utilized in new dishes, drinks and marketplace items. The restaurant opened for dinner in November, rolled out brunch shortly after and opened the marketplace in December. So yes, something good did happen in 2016. The marketplace features a takeout menu and pantry items to make any home chef take their game up a notch. Chef Jaime Young is passionate about sustainability at Sunday: “The marketplace gives us the opportunity to utilize everything that we’re buying…it kind goes with our whole ethos of trying to utilize as much as we can in this restaurant.”
Meyers Bageri’s (667 Driggs Avenue) first stateside bakery began as a Saturday pop-up, in the space they now occupy full-time—the former home of Margo Patisserie. Back in February, word began to spread of Saturday’s pop-up and the lines quickly followed. In late July, Meyers Bageri took over the space completely and has subsequently been introducing North Brooklyn to Claus Meyer’s brand of New Nordic Cuisine. Continue reading
Maman’s original SoHo cafe opened in early Fall 2014 without much fanfare. That is, until people tasted their Nutty Chocolate Chunk Cookie and that cookie alone should make you want to stop at their newest location at 80 Kent Street (between Franklin and West). Luckily, the southern-France-chic bakery has plenty of attention-worthy treats beyond the cookie to make it a welcome addition to our neighborhood!
‘Tis the season for new restaurant openings, and last week Greenpoint had three*. One of the tastiest additions to our burgeoning dining scene is a delightful French Catalonian eatery called Cassette, whose name roughly translates as ‘little box’. Don’t let the name mislead you though, as the space is anything but small. Positioned on the corner of Kent and Franklin streets, the front of the restaurant takes up at least a quarter of the block, which it comfortably shares with Ramona, Kennaland and the former Lulu’s.
Cassette is adjacent to the Kickstarter HQ on Kent, which is somewhat convenient since one of the partners is Kickstarter founder Perry Chen. In creating the new restaurant, Perry teamed up with Henry Rich, owner of Boerum Hill’s popular neighborhood Italian Rucola. Also hailing from Rucola is head chef Joe Pasqualetto whose passion for good, simple food means that Cassette’s veg-focused menu is primed for success from the word go. Continue reading
A lot of local places describe themselves as ‘neighborhood restaurants’. But, aside from location, what does this actually mean? That a place is affordable? Has good food? Friendly service? Lots of regulars? Staying power?
Recently I met with some of the team behind the soon-to-open restaurant on the corner of Franklin and Kent streets. They told me all about their plans to create their own take on the ‘neighborhood restaurant’ in Greenpoint and it sounds as though they could be on track to get the formula just right.
The restaurant, which currently goes by the working title of ‘Clouet’, is headed up by Henry Rich, owner of Italian restaurants Rucola in Boerum Hill and Fitzcarraldo in East Williamsburg. Henry is teaming up with Perry Chen, the founder of Kickstarter, with the pair having become friends after meeting at a barbecue. Continue reading
There’s no shortage of top-notch coffee in Greenpoint, but it’s always fun to have options and, as of last week, we just got one more, courtesy of a new cafe with the suitably caffeine-related name of ‘Early’.
Early Coffee & Sandwich Shop (967 Manhattan Avenue), held its official grand opening on Saturday, where the neighborhood was warmly welcomed in from the cold with free-flowing coffee and canapé-sized tasters of their yummy sandwich menu. Owner Radek Kucharski was cheerily doing the rounds with prosecco and hot cider, whilst cafe manager Peter Chrostowski was doling out espressos, mimosas, and sweet treats by Vegan Divas. Radek told us he’s always dreamed of opening a cafe in the area and, now that the stars have finally aligned in his favor, he’s super excited about the new venture. Continue reading
Finding it hard to leave the house right now? Here’s an incentive to get you over the threshold of your icicle-encrusted front door…Grand Street is throwing its 2nd Annual Restaurant Week!
16 Grand Street restaurants between Union and Bushwick Avenues are offering hot deals on two-course lunches ($8-$10) and three-course dinners ($18-$30) all week, ending Sunday 22nd February. Okay, Grand Street’s not quite Greenpoint, but it’s probably just the right distance to give us that little bit of exercise we’ve been avoiding since before the dawn of the great freeze…and help us work up an appetite worthy of a three-course feast.