Manhattan Avenue

All the Produce of Manhattan Avenue

One of the under-appreciated hallmarks of New York life is your local vegetable stand. A step below the bounty found at our farmers markets, our vegetable stands come in handy on your walk home from the subway or when you’re on a budget and need a little bit more fresh produce in your daily diet. In Greenpoint, the majority of our 24-hour vegetable stands can be found along Manhattan Avenue with the most popular two right off of Greenpoint Avenue. There, we have a veritable vegetable war where every man needs to pick a side.

Mom & Pop’s Organic Market aka Poland Farm | 889 Manhattan Ave
The OG Korean greengrocer of Manhattan Avenue, Mom & Pop’s, the former Poland Farm, is the place consistently giving you deals on produce. Most of the good stuff is found outside where you have to hold your ground against pedestrians, people waiting for the bus, and old ladies who will really want their plums! Keep in mind that the “better” deals are for produce that needs to be eaten today or possibly tomorrow. Continue reading

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Greenpoint is Grieving Over The Habitat’s Closing

Our sanctuary in the storm, our pretend ski lodge, our light in the dark is being snuffed out  image: Habitat/Instagram

The news came in June and some of us are still reeling from it. After nine-and-a-half years at 988 Manhattan Avenue, The Habitat will be closing its doors forever on Saturday, September 16th. The owners tried to negotiate a new lease with reasonable market rates, but they couldn’t come to an agreement with the landlords. Ever since I first stepped foot inside during an epic 2008 pub crawl, Habitat has always held a special place in my heart. The trivia night involving real buzzers and graphics, art shows including one involving my first true love (ice cream), afternoon happy hour, their always fantastic tap list, and of course, the food. Delicious, unpretentious, and affordable, as good bar food should be. To me, Habitat and Mark Bar (RIP) balanced each other out on what was the quieter side of Manhattan Avenue. Alas, all good things must come to an end. Continue reading

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Gourmet A’Fare Market is Open on Manhattan + Box

We’ve got a new grocery store up Manhattan Ave.

One of the longtime givens of life north of Greenpoint Avenue has been that the closest real grocery store was C-Town at 935 Manhattan Avenue. Seeing as this area is about to have a population explosion, that C-Town was not going to be enough. But, thankfully, a new grocery store, Gourmet A’Fare, opened up last week in the new luxury building at 1133 Manhattan and has brought some much-needed foodstuffs to the neighborhood.
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60 Years In and Peter Pan’s Still Got It

Image: Author’s Personal Peter Pan Donuts Collection

Almost every visitor to Greenpoint has one specific stop: Peter Pan Donuts. The Manhattan Avenue shop is literally one of our claims to fame even without Tina Fey’s affections. There have been documentaries and shorts made about it. Their doughnuts have appeared on lists from here to Japan. Their summer ice cream sandwiches are things of beauty. And best of all, the price has still remained $1.10 for one doughnut, with a filling breakfast or lunch for under $10. As someone who lived around the corner for seven years, I frequently stopped by for a hangover breakfast or mid-afternoon pick-me-up (yes, doughnuts are snacks in my world). I’d noticed over the past couple of years, new flavors began appearing on their hallowed shelves, and they were definitely worth noting. Continue reading

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The Piadine Reigns Supreme at Williamsburg’s Lella Alimentari

Photo © Kevin Irby
Photo © Kevin Irby

“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.”

Massimiliano Nanni © Kevin Irby

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.

owners of Lella Alimentari
“We are old friends. Sometimes your best friend becomes your husband.” Photo © Kevin Irby

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.”

artwork made by Lella's owners' son.
“We dream about writing a book one day with all the drawings from my little boy, we like the name ‘The Cook, the Wife, and the Red Hat.’” Photo © Kevin Irby

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.

Eggs are poached or soft boiled, never fried. Photo © Kevin Irby

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.

Photo © Kevin Irby

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.”

Photo © Kevin Irby

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.”

Photo © Kevin Irby

“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.”

A patron on her laptop in one of four sunny booths. Photo © Kevin Irby

Lella Alimentari | 325 Manhattan Avenue
718-599-1986
Open 8am to 7pm every day

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The New Menu at Tørst is a Perfect Mix of Nordic & American

A new spread at Tørst  Image courtesy of Tørst

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

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Zagat’s Names Peter Pan Top Donut Shop in New York

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The prestigious Zagat Guide’s prizes for the city’s best eateries for 2017 have just been announced and one of the winners is a Greenpoint institution: Peter Pan Donut & Pastry shop (727 Manhattan Ave.) was named as the city’s premiere location for donuts. Peter Pan received a 4.5 for food, a 3.7 for decor and a 4.1 for service. The runner up, Orwasher’s Bakery, in the East 70’s in Manhattan got the same scores for food and service as Peter Pan, but scored lower on Decor. Peter Pan’s unique decor has not changed much in generations and the timeless quality to the place is one of its many attractions. Continue reading

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Day of Terror in 1950: The Frightening Greenpoint Underground Explosion

Greenpoint sewer explosion 1950It was just about noon on October 6, 1950—a day seemingly like any other day in Greenpoint—but five minutes later all hell would break loose. America was at the height of the Red Scare and news that the Soviets had the bomb was in everyone’s mind. Constant air raid drilling and the creation of local fallout shelters in the case of nuclear war only heightened anxiety even higher.

Suddenly a massive ear splitting explosion at Huron and Manhattan Avenue occurred causing terror. The power of the blast was so greatscreen-shot-2016-11-12-at-10-32-06-pm that it blew manhole covers fifty feet in the air like champagne corks and a ten foot section of the street was vaporized. A reinforced concrete sewer was blown to pieces. Five hundred windows were shattered by the powerful explosion as blue flame belched from the manholes. Continue reading

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Struggle to Find Money for Holiday Lights Reflects Changed Greenpoint

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-10-28-39-pmDonna Siafakas, the owner of Peter Pan Donuts & Pastry Shop (727 Manhattan Ave.) and Nick Giannios, owner of The Greenpoint Floral Company (703 Manhattan Ave.) are two long-time local residents and successful Manhattan Avenue merchants who are trying to give back the community at holiday time, but they’re learning that things ain’t the way they used to be.

Siafakas loved the holiday lights that used to signal the start of every holiday season on Manhattan Avenue. She related to me how local merchants used to all chip in and collect money for the lights as a thank you to customers who supported local businesses. In those days, Manhattan Avenue business owners were locals with families and had deep ties to the community. Years ago a civic minded local Jewish merchant used to organize the lighting drive and collected the money, which most local store owners were only to happy to contribute.

Giannos and Siafakos have tried to keep the tradition alive, but times have changed and so has the willingness of merchants to fund the holiday lights. Siafakas said that she was shocked by the resistance to contributing for the avenue lights. She does not want local shoppers to chip in, and feels that it’s a way for store owners to show their love for the community; but fewer than half the businesses have contributed so far, and some shop owners told her outright that they would not contribute because they did not celebrate the holiday season. Continue reading

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Luksus, Unexpected Luxury in a Greenpoint Hideaway

wintergreen_luksus_greenpointers_juliamoak
Wintergreen at Luksus Photo By Julia Moak

Behind the unassuming street front of Tørst bar, is Greenpoint’s most famous culinary secret, Luksus. This is one of North Brooklyn’s highest acclaimed eateries, yet humbly tucked away behind the beer bar, you may not know it is there. For two years running, it has held the only Michelin star status in the neighborhood, an honor it hopes to continue into 2017 after the New York City recipients are announced on November 17th. Even those who have ordered from the Tørst menu may not know that the dishes were created by world-renowned chef Daniel Burns, previously of Momofuku, The Fat Duck in the UK, and Noma in Copenhagen. The understated presence of Luksus in Brooklyn is void of pretension and reflects the persona of Burns and the cuisine. Continue reading

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