Just a brief nod to one of our all-time favourites. Carmines, on Graham Avenue in the Greenpoint/Williamsburg area of Brooklyn has nothing to do with Carmines in Manhattan I’m told. We’ve always loved the Brooklyn Carmines. We first went here about twelve years ago with my wife’s family from Queens. From the start you could feel the pulse of the neighbourhood buzz: the locals, the cops stopping by for a pizza slice or two. And the small restaurant was brimming with real New Yorkers; an atmosphere that’s quite rarefied and unique.
Some customers came for the tripe or off-menu items, some – like Marie and I – for hot, spicy Italian peppers on home baked Italian bread with butter. So simple, so good. And items like the Philly cheese steak pizza.
A few years ago, Carmines expanded to the room next door too. Now you go through the left side for the pizzeria and to the right for the main restaurant. We feared it might lose its special ambience. To begin with, some of the magic dust was slightly lost but that didn’t last long and it’s back to its best again.
We went back on a recent Saturday evening for the first time in two or three years, and parked on our usual street. There was a man at a mechanics, with a giant Swedish flag on the wall, cleaning a gleaming, gold trimmed classic Chevrolet convertible with elevated wheels.
Carmines let us know it would be an hour wait. That’s okay, and we put our name in. Besides, I’d suggested we walk to a house on nearby Jackson Street, which appeared in my sister’s family tree research on our grandmother’s side. It turned out to be 4 minutes walk and it was fun to see where some of my exPat British family had briefly lived in Brooklyn in the late 19th/early 20th century!
We enjoyed moseying around the streets. The area around Carmines has signs that it’s becoming a little more trendy/hipster. We prefer it the old fashioned way, but there’s a lot to do and look at now. You often see quirky things in Brooklyn, and a woman in a parked car was kissing and hugging a goose on the backseat! There are plenty of new bars and small restaurants with character too.
We also passed the small factory that makes the famous coffee soda (espresso pop/fizzy drink; it’s a New York thing but Marie and I don’t drink it!).
Carmines called that a table was ready, and we were set. As I say, the place has taken on all of its appeal and charm again. It’s amazing value, and the food is as good as any Italian we’ve ever had in New York. Our waiter was young, European and he may have been Italian or Eastern European. We ordered off-menu because some of our old favourites were no longer on the new menu, but they were happy to make them for us.
The wood-fired pizza oven is seriously impressive. We started with the aforementioned hot, spicy peppers with Italian, warm bread and butter. Then a four seasons pizza and a cavatelli bolognese to share (covered in ooh-mammy gooey cheese). We ordered that when we went to Carmines with Lisa once. I had a Lagunitas pilsner.
A fantastic visit, and we plan to go back soon.
Marie had also found an Italian bakery online, to walk to next. Fortunato Brothers turned out to be an absolute gem, and IMHO possibly the best bakery we’ve ever been to in New York! We got several cookies/biscuits, a cannolo (cannoli are crisp pastry tubes filled with ricotta cream) and a light, choux pastry shaped like a swan and filled with fresh whipped cream which was much more like the European cream that we enjoy the most.
It only took about 25 minutes to drive home to Whitestone. Why had we waited so long to go back?!