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If I could eat at only 1 Italian Rest in Brooklyn . . .

There are not enough days in our NYC trip to hit all the wonderful places, so if I had to pick only one Brooklyn Italian restaurant that serves southern Italian food, preferably more home-style, and reasonably priced, where would you send me?

My contenders are:
1. Baci & Abbracci (Williamsburg)
2. Noodle Pudding (Brooklyn Heights)
3. Po (Smith Street)

Any other contenders that just can't be missed?

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  1. I don't know Baci & Abbracci but Noodle Pudding is a pleasant neighborhood spot and nothing more. Po hasn't even opened yet so it would seem a bit premature to place it in the forefront of Brooklyn Italians, especially since it's Manhattan outpost isn't held in any special regard.

    Must try Italian restaurants in Brooklyn? Al Di La and Queen.

    1. Baci - No way.

      Noodle Pudding--I think it is a great neighborhood restaurant. Definitely a pleaser. I think more "home-style" than Al Di La.

      Po--So new, it might be a gamble

      Al Di La--Always great, always busy!

      1. I don't know Baci & Abbracci but Noodle Pudding is a pleasant neighborhood spot and nothing more. Po hasn't even opened yet so it would seem a bit premature to place it in the forefront of Brooklyn Italians, especially since it's Manhattan outpost isn't held in special regard.

        Must try Italian restaurants in Brooklyn? Al Di La and Queen.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Bob Martinez

          don't think of al di la (or noodle pudding for that matter) as southern italian, or homestyle, as the OP requested. don't know Baci & Abbracci.
          I would think Ferdinando's or Joe's or Queen or one of the ones in W'burg or Bensonhurst is more what the poster had in mind. People with knowledge about good old school brooklyn italian joints--got any recs?

          1. re: missmasala

            agree about noodle pudding being a good neighborhood joint. otherwise, i don't think it's worth taking a trip there unless you live in the area.

            1. re: missmasala

              Yes, the OP requested old school/Southern Italian places. As much as we adore Al DiLa, I agree with missmasala that it does not fit the bill. I would recommend Frankie's Spuntino (Court Street, Carroll Gardens), or second the motions for places like Ferdinando's, Bamonte, etc.

              1. re: parkslopemama

                What's strange is that the OP asked for home-style Southern Italian and then named 3 restaurants as possibilities that aren't really those old time type of places. For old style Brooklyn Italian restaurants I'd go with either Queen in Downtown Brooklyn on Court St. or Cono's in Williamsburg on Graham Ave (and I'd avoid Bamonte's), with a leaning towards Queen. Although I'm certain there are several places I don't know much about out in southern Brooklyn that would also fit the bill, perhaps a bit less expensively. For more currently authentic Italian-style food I'd definitely choose Al Di La - or go to Manhattan.

                1. re: Woodside Al

                  What Al said.
                  I take my Southern Italian-American cousins to al di la even though it's clearly Northern Ital food. It's sooooo good, and "more currently authentic." If I was looking for old-style Brooklyn red sauce, I'd poke around Graham Ave, or perhaps Bay Ridge.

                  Where in Bay Ridge? Could not tell you.
                  I'd go to Piazza Mercado grocery (salumi and bread and butcher ETC) on 2nd Ave and 92nd St in Bay Ridge, get some antipasti and ask them. They have a map of Calabria on the wall.

                  1. re: pitu

                    I can tell you :)
                    Bay Ridge it's Gino's Restaurant (& Pizzaria) 5th Ave and 74th St.
                    Great food, excellent service - the pizzarias in front, restaurant in back.
                    Other suggestions.... Maria's in Sheepshead Bay, the food is always good.
                    Gargiulo's in Coney Island, love the hot antipasto.
                    I don't think I would recommend Fiorentino's at all, tried it a few times and never had a good meal there.
                    Someone else mentioned Collaro's - I remember the one that was on Coney Island Avenue.... anyone else?

                    1. re: anon6116

                      This "other" Collaro's on Coney Is. Ave. off Kings Highway (no relationship to the one on McDonald Ave) wasnt nearly as good. And I agree that Fiorentino's is mediocre at best, with the distinct possibility that the meal will be downright bad.

                      The OP should go to Queen or al di la.

                      1. re: anon6116

                        gargulios is glorified catering hall food.

                2. re: missmasala

                  southern italian doesnt necessary mean old school brooklyn, plus, with an exception to queen, none of those places you listed are very good.

                3. re: Bob Martinez

                  Could not agree more. I prefer Queen slightly to Al Di La, mainly because it has a better comfort level. I think these two are contenders for the best Italian restaurant in all of NYC, not just Brooklyn...

                4. Al Di La. Get there at 5:30 or you will WAIT! I eat at noodle pudding 3 times a week. Its very good, not great. Al Di La can achieve greatness. Try the steak.

                  1. Al Di La
                    or Frost Street restaurant (Williamsburg) or Bamonte's (Williamsburg)
                    These are real Italian American places. IF you want something with more ambiance, I would try something else
                    Good Luck!

                    1. 1. Baci- No way
                      2. Noodle Pudding- great nabe Italian restaurant but not one I consider as a classic Italian. Hard to describe. I love the place but don't think of it in an Italian way.
                      3. Po- C;mon...they've been open -one day-.

                      Lunetta and Frankies I'd reccomend.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Larry Brooks

                        and how could I forget Al di La?

                        Al di La!

                      2. Locanda Vini e Olii in Fort Greene most definitely! delicious delicious delicious

                        http://www.locandavinieolii.com/

                        1. Have you tried:

                          Fehrentino's on Avenue U and MacDonald Ave. Absolutely great Italian food.

                          1. how can you put a restarant on the list that has no track record, because it has not
                            even opened?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: jason carey

                              Fehrentino's used to be Collaro's? Now THAT was a great place. In the 70's there used to be a LINE to get inside. Actually now that Im thinking about it, it was Ave J or so and McDonald Under the L.

                              Brennan & Carr, cant be left out.

                              1. re: nyebaby37

                                It's Avenue U and MacDonald. The food is still great.

                                1. re: nyebaby37

                                  Collaro's was on McDonald off Quenton under the train. I spent 20 years eating eggplant parm w/baked ziti or lasagna there & still miss it. It's now something that begins with a V... cant remember but went twice and wont go back. Fiorentino's is a different place on Ave U off McDonald. Okay food. Joe's of Ave U is real southern, like Ferdinando's.

                              2. ohhh Italian food...

                                Garguilios (CI)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: nyebaby37

                                  I second this- Great experience! Anybody been to Michaels lately?

                                2. Locanda or Frankie's! Both have lovely staff, too, which is not always true of Noodle Pudding where I was recently scolded by the maitre d' for not cleaning my plate.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: eleeb

                                    the name of the restaurant is called Fiorentino's on Ave U and Macadonald. I am a transplanted nyer(Brooklynite) living in Pasadena CA. I used to eat there with my family years and years ago. It is also VERY Italian American...and very heavy on the garlic...that is my only problem with it. But still, it is a great place.

                                  2. Has anyone been to Miss Williamsburg lately? I remember it as being delicious, but it's been a while.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: izzizzi

                                      How about da Tommaso. I'm from Connecticut, so I'm not familiar with any other Brooklyn restaurants, but have been to Tomasso's a few times and really like it.

                                      1464 86th St at the corner of Bay 8th St.

                                      1. re: izzizzi

                                        Miss Williamsburg is closed and has been replaced by a place called 718 that is truly disgusting.

                                        1. Aurora in Williamsburg, and Frankie's on court street. Al di la is wonderful but not Southern.Definitely Tommaso's.

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: sharonm

                                            i know i am always touting it, but i think it deserves every bit of it... fragole on court street. its homey and neighborhoody but special and romantic feeling at the same time. the homemade pastas are handsdown some of the best i've ever tried. i go to both noodle pudding and fragole as i live right in the middle one, and i think the food at fragole is consistently more impressive. great inexpensive wine list also.

                                            queen is a good choice too - i enjoy the food, but the atmosphere is entirely lacking i find.

                                            1. re: vatl619

                                              hmmmm...we tried fragole the other night for the 1st time. it was 'ok'...that's the best i could say about it. the restaurant itself was very tired ...and i wasn't blown away by the food. it wasn't by any means bad...just ok. we wished we had gone to either frankies or queen when all was said and done.

                                              1. re: redgirl

                                                I adore Al Di La but I think that the OP has something different in mind and that something might be Queen on Court Street. Queen is the best old-school, red sauce place by far.

                                                1. re: redgirl

                                                  I had the exact opposite reaction to our first trip to Fragole this past Saturday night. I thought it was delicious and unpretentious and just plain good pasta. I will definitely be back.

                                                  For a true old-school, red saucing, I'd say Queen is the best I've been to in Brooklyn. Noodle Pudding and Fragole are nice standbys to have in the neighborhood. But Queen seems like the place that should have a mural on the wall of gondoleers paddling in front of the Leaning Tower and Mt. Vesuvius, if you catch my drift. The fresh mozz with roasted red peppers should not be missed.

                                                  1. re: gangly handful

                                                    i didn't think fragole was bad. i thought it was a nice neighborhood restaurant but didn't rise high above the competition.

                                            2. Baci and Abbracci is great, but the noise is so deafening thanks to the concrete walls, that it really detracts from the overall experience.

                                              1. I would check out Ferdinando's on Union street for traditional Sicillian cusine. Great food, great service, and great atmosphere!

                                                1. The OP specifically requested Southern Italian cuisine.

                                                  Al Di La is mainly Northern Italian food. As is Noodle Pudding.

                                                  For excellent Southern Italian food, I would recommend The Queen on Court Street.

                                                  We find that Noodle Pudding has gotten extremely noisy. The waiting policy is exasperating. We were told the wait would be 20 minutes, and an hour later we were still waiting. Had we known the wait would not be 20 minutes, we would have left. This has happened before.

                                                  1. My absolute favorite Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, perhaps my favorite Italian restaurant ever, closed around 1999. It was Helen's located on Court Street between President and Carroll. I believe that location now serves as a Hallmark store. They served a bountiful, fresh salad with shavings of parmigiano, olives, carrots, and onions all enveloped in a tastefully tangy herbal dressing. I would often order the veal parmigiana which would then prompt the chef to take out the meat tenderizer and I would hear him expertly pound the veal cutlet and then watch him bread it then and there. They served a wonderful tomato sauce which blended the sweet and savory in a way I've not had since. Another endearing feature of the place was the droll waiter named Livio. He was hysterical and always gave a knowing smile when he'd ask me, "More wine?"

                                                    Do any of you longtime Brooklyn diners have memories of this place? Boy, do I miss Helen's.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Rodrigo

                                                      I remember Helen's. I used to go there all the time, when it was one of the few restaurants non-occasion restaurants in the neighborhood (back when I could afford to live in Carrol Gardens...) I loved it too--and always used to get that salad. I can still picture it the place, and the waiter you're talking about. For some reason, the old refrigerator sticks in my mind. It is sad that these labor of love restaurants can't survive any more. Can you imagine the diffference between the rent then and today?

                                                      1. re: FAL

                                                        Agreed. Areo in Bay Ridge is still a good spot.

                                                      2. After a week of my quest for the best Italian food in NYC, and following all the generous recommendations in Chowhound, I return back from the food trenches with a report:

                                                        1. Queen on Court Street– The only delight on the menu was the bread, which was warm and crusty fresh. All other items on the menu that we ate were mediocre at best. The chicken and pea dish was absolutely flat with flavor, as if the cooks had just forgotten to season it altogether. Another chicken dish that was ordered was too salty and also lacking in flavor. The pasta was OK, but nothing special.
                                                        Stick with the bread if you ask me.

                                                        2. Al Di La -- Yes yes! Fantastic risotto, artichoke ravioli, olive oil cake and asparagus and egg appetizer. It deserves the raves. Thanks Chowhounders for steering me in the right direction. I even went a second time because the food was so good, the ambiance so pleasant, despite the wait and boisterous interiors. A favorite!!

                                                        3. Noodle Pudding - Compared to Al Di La, it was definitely inferior. It was acceptable, but did not raise above acceptable. I would prefer to hop on the train to eat in Park Slope at Al Di La, next time. I ordered the puttanesca, and the sauce was too anchovey and salty, but OK. The lasagna bolognese was acceptable, but not exceptional.

                                                        4. Joes of Avenue U -- To be honest, the food has nosedived since my last eating there about 5-6 years ago. I ordered several entrees, knowing that I could not finish them, but hoping to have delicious sicilian food, but was quite disappointed. Only the panelle were quite good (although compared to Fernandos in Cobble Hill, they were heavy and thick). The marinara sauce tasted worse than many store bought varieties I have had, it was downright sweet and watery. The escarole boiled to a pulp, and virtually inedible. The rice ball special was fair, being dry and not fresh tasting, and overly drowned in cheese and sauce. Other than the panelle, I would not order anything on the menu, based on the items I ordered.

                                                        5. Fernando's in Cobble Hill - The 104 year old Sicilian gem! Excellent delicate and fresh panelle. Ricotta ball special that was excellent. Excellent paparadelle with marinara, and not least of all canolli that were spectacular, better than any I have had anywhere else. The canolli cream was airy, delicate and saved from the candied fruit chunkiness that comes with canolli usually. The decour is a bit rickety, but that too adds to the charm.

                                                        Thanks to all Chowhounders who helped us find these memorable eateries, and have us hankering to get back to NY as soon as possible.

                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: malgosia

                                                          though I still have yet to go to Queen (I mean to often) I think perhaps your error was to order from the menu. the common knowledge on the board seems to be stick with the specials. perhaps you would have enjoyed more (though I think its hard to justify a restaurant serving great specials and mediocre menu items?)

                                                          1. re: Nehna

                                                            I dunno about the "only order the specials" tactic. I've eaten at Queen multiple times over the years from both the regular and specials menu and had good to very good experiences with both. Of course the subjective level of happiness is going to vary by dish, that's true at all restaurants, but I never found an overall higher level of quality with the specials.

                                                            Be careful with the common knowledge thing. Sometimes it's just a shared misconception.

                                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                              Fair enough, like I said, I've yet to go (I dont know why we can never quite get ourselves in there, we live merely a couple blocks away....). I just remember reading often that specials were the way to go, as is often the case in my experience in old school Italian places.

                                                              1. re: Nehna

                                                                If you're too timid to try it yourselves :-) I'm sure that Ginny & I, and probably Bob & Deb, could be persuaded to go too. You know how to reach me (hint: try my home page for my e-mail address). If you go without us, look for the mozz. w/anchovy sauce (if you like anchovies, of course), the chicken liver app. (if you like chicken livers, of course), ask for fried fennel instead of zucchini (if you like fried and fennel... well you get the idea) and, then for entrees be adventurous and look for something that sounds interesting. It usually lives up to it.

                                                                As a disclaimer though, I have to say that, in the lifetime I've been going there, I've had some real, real clunker meals. And, when that happens... well, it's not pretty. Otherwise, I think its one of the only remaining old timers that really still can cook & the sons have continued the tradition nicely.

                                                                  1. re: Steve R

                                                                    "As a disclaimer though, I have to say that, in the lifetime I've been going there, I've had some real, real clunker meals. "

                                                                    You're never going to forgive them for that "special" Valentine's Day menu, are you? :-)

                                                            2. re: malgosia

                                                              malgosia, thx for the excellent report back!

                                                            3. Bamonte's in Williamsburg (32 Withers st, 718-384-8831.) It is exactly what you are looking for: reasonable prices, Southern Italian and homestyle.

                                                              1. A friend tried Spirito (on 9th St @ 4th & 5th Ave) last week and said the food was great. She's not a hound, but I think I could trust her on that. Has anyone here had any dining experiences at Spirito?

                                                                7 Replies
                                                                1. re: bluishgnome

                                                                  Has anyone eaten at Po yet on Smith? I looked at the menu. It was kind of high-end price wise, which is fine if it is worth it. Also, what is the restaurant like that replaced Pancetta? My understanding is that there was a change in Chefs for whatever reason.

                                                                  1. re: wayzata

                                                                    check the rest of the board for Po -- there's been several threads and quite a few positive reviews

                                                                    1. re: wayzata

                                                                      I've posted a couple times regarding Po experiences, which have been quite good (not mind blowing or innovative, just solid and tasty).

                                                                      Pancetta was replaced by Carniceria, an Argentinian restaurant. I think I posted after it opened, we've been only once. Had a very good meal there that night, esp the sweetbreads. Lots of grilled meats, arepas, etc. Yes, completely different chef and about as different a restaurant as it could be from Porcetta (not Pancetta, wrong meat hehe).

                                                                      1. re: Nehna

                                                                        In Bensonhurst, Il Colosseo (77th and 18th ave) is probably most like an unpretentious family restaurant you'd find today in, say, Naples or Bari.
                                                                        Not much decor, but a real open kitchen, wood-burning forno for pretty good pizze, much fresh fish and shellfish for the grill or as you wish, and solid primi, including occasionally creative pasta and risotto pairings. Decent and cheap wine by the carafe; many bubbling families; quick, professional service. It's been around a while; Lorenzo, the proudly Sicilian owner, is usually on premises.
                                                                        Good value and a refreshingly ordinary (best sense) experience.

                                                                    2. re: bluishgnome

                                                                      My wife and I went to Spirito a few weeks ago and were very disappointed. We really wanted to like the place but almost every single dish was mediocre and our white wine was served lukewarm. What really disappointed me was that both the concept and the execution of both our appetizers was off (both had way too much cheese, which is a strong statement coming from an almost weekly visitor to the excellent cheese counter at Bierkraft). Given the wide range of excellent Italian choices within walking distance, I would give it a pass (I did a more full review somewhere on this site).

                                                                      I know it's not Italian but there are a few Italian-inspired dishes on the menu at Tempo that are truly outstanding (the bucatini with Sicilian pistachio nut pesto, the polenta with wild mushrooms and the fettucine con piselli (I don't eat red meat and had it without the pancetta and it was still great)). It's also a fantastic deal with the new prix fixe and has a Gramercy Tavern inspired attention to service (i.e. casual, yet attentive). Their wines by the glass are also quite a bit more than a glass, adding to the value factor.

                                                                      1. re: mmm...food

                                                                        My husband and I have been to Spirito twice, and loved it both times. I am guessing that the appetizer you mention as having too much cheese is the string bean appetizer with tomino cheese. I agree with your opinion about it, but the pastas were excellent both times we went. We had the fried artichoke hearts and calamari one night, and they were great.

                                                                        I walked by last weekend, andt there was a sign about how their new summer menu would be unveiled after the 4th; I can't wait to try it.

                                                                        I need to go back to Ferdinando's; it's been a few years since I've been there.

                                                                        1. re: mmm...food

                                                                          I went to Spirito with three friends of mine, one of them born and raised in Italy that never heard about the place. He was delighted and so were we. The food was really fresh and authentic, the wine fabulous and inexpensive. Yes we did tried the grilled Tomino cheese and it tasted like cheese because it is cheese. Maybe the portion was just a little bit to big for one person to finish it. We shared it and we all agreed it was very good. I was surprised about the string beans myself, but my friend Federico explained me that everyone in Italy eats string beans like that. He thinks that we eat them raw…
                                                                          I really recommend this place.

                                                                      2. Of all these posts, I cannot believe that no one has mentioned S. Cono O'Pescatore. The food is perfect. Homemade everything, and the sauce is on point. Naples all over again in Williamsburg.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: noodles

                                                                          cono's rocks! My family is from williamsburg. I would go to the gilio feast every summer. WE would eat at conos, frost street for amazing fish or Bamonte's. All really great Italian american food!

                                                                        2. definitely aurora. baci and abbracci i find to be sub-par, and everything at al di la, while good enough, seems to taste of too much rosemary. aurora does very well at cooking ingredients and matching flavors