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NO PLACE LIKE HOME

2Fifteen Cucina serves up hearty Italian fare

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For restaurant-starved Brooklynites living west of Columbia Street, year-old 2Fifteen Cucina Napoletan is a haven.

On a recent winter evening, the twinkling white holiday lights in the window beckoned us in from the cold and snow. We took a table by the Bay of Naples at sunset, a wall mural painted by local artist Jerry Calandrea.

The family oriented, rectangular restaurant offers plenty of room between the plastic tablecloth-covered tables, jukebox playing Patsy Cline, among other classic crooners, and small bar.

The emphasis at 2Fifteen Cucina is clearly on the affordable menu, which offers heaping portions. There are daily specials, too, if the extensive menu can’t vanquish your hunger.

And I mean vanquish.

The portions on the plates at 2Fifteen Cucina could easily feed the entire cast of "The Sopranos."

Vintage black-and-white photos of South Brooklyn hang by the entrance, reminders of this neighborhood’s charms before the invasion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in 1957 - and before South Brooklyn was christened with trendy names like Carroll Gardens and the Columbia Street Waterfront District.

Partners Mike Denaro, of Cobble Hill, and Janet Caccioppoli, a life-long resident of Carroll Gardens, are Italian-Americans who rave about their heritage as much as their neighborhood. And the opening of their restaurant - and nearby Mexican eatery Alma - are signs of the neighborhood’s renewal.

"We serve Neapolitan cuisine," said Denaro. "That means no butter, no cream. The chefs [Tony, Piera and Julio] are not from a culinary institute. They are all from Italy.

"Sometimes, when Tony makes something, I ask him what it’s called and he says, ’There’s no name. My mom used to make it.’"

On this chilly evening, we ordered familiar-sounding selections from the list of hot appetizers. The mozzarella in carozza, a deep-fried mozzarella sandwich with a tempura-like coating, was served piping hot. Deliciously fluffy and generously cheesy, there was no need for a dunk in the tomato sauce served on the side.

The antipasti caldo, an appetizer (really, a platter that could easily serve two) of warm mushroom caps, shrimp, mussels and clams generously stuffed with buttery breadcrumbs, teetered on the brink of a bland abyss, but was saved by the fresh mussels.

The enormous veal chop, stuffed with mozzarella and prosciutto, arrived with a tinfoil-covered bone-handle on a bed of crisp asparagus with a potato croquette (our guilty pleasure!) The chop’s tame flavor was much improved by the salty, cured ham. The vintage croquette was crispy and cheesy - a potato delight that is more upscale than a Tater Tot but has less cache than polenta.

The seared black angus shell steak, from the list of specialities of the house, was indeed special. Served with winy porcini mushrooms, it is seasoned with generous heaps of roasted garlic.

It would be a disservice not to order a side of super-fresh sauteed escarole, also pungently flavored with garlic.

2Fifteen Cucina offers a list of soups and pastas - including homemade ravioli - as well as salads and chicken dishes.

"We have fish deliveries seven days a week," said Denaro, stressing that the fish dishes on his menu - salmon with mussels and clams, zuppa di pesce (a soup of mixed fish in a wine sauce), broiled filet of sole, among others - are fresh.

For dessert, 2Fifteen Cucina offers a list of grappas, ports and sherries and the Italian specialties you expect. The tartufo is a delight for the whole family. The large chocolate-and-vanilla ice cream truffle arrives in a shell of chocolate and is topped with whip cream. The diner who digs to the center the fastest is rewarded with a maraschino cherry and almonds.

Homesick Italians and in-the-know neighborhood folk come on Sundays for Tony’s beef braciola, rolled with egg, cheese and ham and cooked in oil, white wine and broth. For the rest of its neighbors, it’s enough to have 2Fifteen’s regular menu offerings close enough to eat-in, with its view of Naples, or to take-out.

 

2Fifteen Cucina Napoletan, located at 215 Columbia St. between Union and Sackett streets in the Columbia Street Waterfront District, accepts American Express, Discover, Visa and MasterCard. Entrees: $10.50-$17.95. For reservations and take-out, call (718) 858-2960.

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