Today’s news:

The changing face of Coney Island

Park Slope sandwich shop to open in People's Playground

The Brooklyn Paper

The People’s Playground is fast becoming Downtown’s dining room.

The city’s push to upgrade the Coney Island Boardwalk is well underway — and Brownstone Brooklyn businesses are leading the charge.

Popular Park Slope eatery Zito’s Sandwich Shoppe will open a gourmet hoagie hub on Jones Walk near Luna Park, becoming the latest in a growing list of Downtown restaurants replacing game booths and Boardwalk bars that embraced Coney Island’s honky-tonk charm for decades.

Zito’s co-owner Marcello Bucca said he decided to invest in Coney Island after Tom’s Restaurant in Prospect Heights and Grimaldi’s Pizzeria in DUMBO snapped up properties in the amusement area — which the city wants to transform into an upscale, year-round tourist destination.

“The fact that Grimaldi’s and Tom’s are making bigmoney moves proves that it’s the beginning of a renaissance in Coney Island,” said Bucca, a Bensonhurst native. “New people are coming in. We’re banking that the area’s changing.”

Bucca’s also hoping that Coney Island beachgoers will be willing to pay Downtown prices: Zito’s will offer a Six Point braised roast beef sandwich with marinated mushrooms and house-made mozzarella for $11, while roast beef sandwiches at a Coney Island staple — the Island Food Court on Stillwell Avenue — go for just $4.75.

Some beachgoers are already kicking sand at the upscale changes Zito’s and Tom’s Restaurant will bring.

“I come out here to enjoy the hot dogs,” said visitor Amy Porter. “I’m not looking for a five-star dining experience.”

Richie Smith agreed.

“The beach is supposed to belong to everybody,” Smith said. “It shouldn’t be priced out of the reach of the average person.”

Longtime Coney businesses also say they’re wary of the new eateries and promise to fend off the gourmet competition, claiming that these carpetbagging businesses won’t be raking in the bucks they’re expecting during their first season on the sand.

“People are investing big dollars now but it’ll take quite some time to get a return,” said Michael Sarrel, the owner of Ruby’s Bar, an amusement area staple who has tried to keep the spirit of the iconic Coney Island Boardwalk alive by rebuilding his bar out of its weather-worn planks.

But Dick Zigun, who runs Sideshows by the Seashore, said the new restaurants should see a payoff once they open.

“These aren’t chains,” Zigun said. “These are quality places that are all Brooklyn-centric.”

Zito’s outpost will serve subs, potato croquettes, and other menu items currently found at its Park Slope market, which opened on Seventh Avenue near Seventh Street last August and boasts organic meets, cheeses, and locally-brewed beer.

The deli-sized space will replace Skin the Wire, one of the old-school Boardwalk game booths between Surf Avenue and Bowery Street that links Luna Park to Deno’s Wonder Wheel.

In November, the city evicted several longtime carnies and awarded the land to Central Amusement International, which was tapped to re-make the People’s Playground. One month later, Central Amusements announced that neighborhood businesses such as Ruby’s Bar and Paul’s Daughter would be allowed to remain on the Boardwalk, and inked deals to bring Tom’s Restaurant and a bigger Nathan’s hot dog stand to the iconic seaside walkway.

Tom’s is replacing Cha-Cha’s Bar, one of several beloved Boardwalk shops that were kicked off the promenade, while Grimaldi’s — a tourist favorite at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge — is opening a pizza spot on Surf Avenue near Stillwell Avenue.

—with Derrick Lytle

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at dbush@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.

Pin It
Print this story

Reader Feedback

cbr from upstate says:
There goes the iconic Coney Island boardwalk neighborhood.
May 8, 2012, 8:43 am
al pankin from downtown says:
what iconic neighborhood? it looks like a bombed out area...it once was an iconic beautiful place to go,,,50 years ago.
May 8, 2012, 8:49 am
jon b from south brooklyn says:
It is so ironic that folks pine away for the “old coney island.” the old coney island was always changing and innovating. It recreated itself every season with new rides and attractions. It was never stagnant like the Coney of the past 40 years.
May 8, 2012, 10:16 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
al, exactly. Coney Island looms large in the national imagination, but its reality is run-down, seedy, and a shadow of its former self as a destination.

Coney Island needs to be revitalized or bulldozed to make way for something entirely new and different. Say, a giant water park with water slides and inner tube rides. Or a Six Flags-style amusement park. Neither of those options exists in the city any more.

If they did either of those things and sold a season pass, a Brooklyn Fun Pass, so families and kids can come back again and again with free admission to the park and rides as well as access to the Aquarium and Cyclones games, they'd make a mint in concessions alone and local businesses there would get crazy increases in their traffic.
May 8, 2012, 10:23 am
BunnynSunny from The Hill says:
Now that's what I call a lot of bread.
May 8, 2012, 10:37 am
Not Goish from Prospect Heights says:
Douchebaggery just can't happen in the Rockaways this season. Nathan's, or nothing!
May 8, 2012, 11:18 am
MJ from Kensington says:
While it hasn't re-opened just yet, my smart money is on the new Ruby's magically transforming into a 50-tap craft beer palace like the Spritzenhaus or a Radegast II. Heck, have you seen the crowds at those places lately? Ruby's ROI will be assured. Of course, I also pray that $3-buck bottles of Bud don't become extinct.

The herd of new upscale businesses rolling into Coney Island may find the salty atmosphere challenging, unless they're sustained by W'burgers, Slopers and "Downtowners" already familiar with their fine products.

That means a continuous, season-long flow to the shore by Mermaid Parade "one-timers", who might ordinarily bypass Coney for other summer beachfronts and mountainsides to the north and east.

Let's give the new paradigm a chance to integrate, market itself, grow and breed its own success. Time will tell.
May 8, 2012, 12:18 pm
LOLcat from Park Slope says:
I want to like Zito's, I really do. But the Sandwiches they offer take way too long for a take out place and are completely overpriced. An Artisan Sandwich from Bierkraft, with as many toppings as I want and a bag of chips or piece of fruit is 10 dollars and HUGE. A sandwich 2/3's the size of that from Zito's, with more generic ingredients (bell & evans is quality for sure though) is often 10 or more. Zito's needs to fine tune their menu and their service.
May 8, 2012, 2:26 pm
Marnie from North Slope says:
Does Bierkraft deliver? I have a white flour allergy and Zito's has an amazing Gluten Free Bread-I usually get the Autogrill -made with 4 cured meats from Bielese (sp?) and Provolone from Applegate with pickled peppers- Best sandwich i've had delivered and cost me $10-The Bell & Evan Chicken Parmesan (not for me my hubby-I can't eat bread crumb) is hands down the best in the city-so he say's-Honestly we'll wait the 5 extra minutes for it-Are they the best in the world-I don't know about that but they sure have upped the game for us-I'm happy with them and glad they support local biz -Sixpoint, local butcher's & bakeries.
May 8, 2012, 2:49 pm
Marnie from North Slope says:
Does Bierkraft deliver? I have a white flour allergy and Zito's has an amazing Gluten Free Bread-I usually get the Autogrill -made with 4 cured meats from Bielese (sp?) and Provolone from Applegate with pickled peppers- Best sandwich i've had delivered and cost me $10-The Bell & Evan Chicken Parmesan (not for me my hubby-I can't eat bread crumb) is hands down the best in the city-so he say's-Honestly we'll wait the 5 extra minutes for it-Are they the best in the world-I don't know about that but they sure have upped the game for us-I'm happy with them and glad they support local biz -Sixpoint, local butcher's & bakeries.
May 8, 2012, 2:49 pm
Marnie from North Slope says:
Does Bierkraft deliver? I have a white flour allergy and Zito's has an amazing Gluten Free Bread-I usually get the Autogrill -made with 4 cured meats from Bielese (sp?) and Provolone from Applegate with pickled peppers- Best sandwich i've had delivered and cost me $10-The Bell & Evan Chicken Parmesan (not for me my hubby-I can't eat bread crumb) is hands down the best in the city-so he say's-Honestly we'll wait the 5 extra minutes for it-Are they the best in the world-I don't know about that but they sure have upped the game for us-I'm happy with them and glad they support local biz -Sixpoint, local butcher's & bakeries.
May 8, 2012, 2:49 pm
Marnie from North Slope says:
Does Bierkraft deliver? I have a white flour allergy and Zito's has an amazing Gluten Free Bread-I usually get the Autogrill -made with 4 cured meats from Bielese (sp?) and Provolone from Applegate with pickled peppers- Best sandwich i've had delivered and cost me $10-The Bell & Evan Chicken Parmesan (not for me my hubby-I can't eat bread crumb) is hands down the best in the city-so he say's-Honestly we'll wait the 5 extra minutes for it-Are they the best in the world-I don't know about that but they sure have upped the game for us-I'm happy with them and glad they support local biz -Sixpoint, local butcher's & bakeries.
May 8, 2012, 2:49 pm
Marnie from North Slope says:
Does Bierkraft deliver? I have a white flour allergy and Zito's has an amazing Gluten Free Bread-I usually get the Autogrill -made with 4 cured meats from Bielese (sp?) and Provolone from Applegate with pickled peppers- Best sandwich i've had delivered and cost me $10-The Bell & Evan Chicken Parmesan (not for me my hubby-I can't eat bread crumb) is hands down the best in the city-so he say's-Honestly we'll wait the 5 extra minutes for it-Are they the best in the world-I don't know about that but they sure have upped the game for us-I'm happy with them and glad they support local biz -Sixpoint, local butcher's & bakeries.
May 8, 2012, 2:49 pm
Marnie from North Slope says:
Does Bierkraft deliver? I have a white flour allergy and Zito's has an amazing Gluten Free Bread-I usually get the Autogrill -made with 4 cured meats from Bielese (sp?) and Provolone from Applegate with pickled peppers- Best sandwich i've had delivered and cost me $10-The Bell & Evan Chicken Parmesan (not for me my hubby-I can't eat bread crumb) is hands down the best in the city-so he say's-Honestly we'll wait the 5 extra minutes for it-Are they the best in the world-I don't know about that but they sure have upped the game for us-I'm happy with them and glad they support local biz -Sixpoint, local butcher's & bakeries.
May 8, 2012, 2:49 pm
Marnie from North Slope says:
Does Bierkraft deliver? I have a white flour allergy and Zito's has an amazing Gluten Free Bread-I usually get the Autogrill -made with 4 cured meats from Bielese (sp?) and Provolone from Applegate with pickled peppers- Best sandwich i've had delivered and cost me $10-The Bell & Evan Chicken Parmesan (not for me my hubby-I can't eat bread crumb) is hands down the best in the city-so he say's-Honestly we'll wait the 5 extra minutes for it-Are they the best in the world-I don't know about that but they sure have upped the game for us-I'm happy with them and glad they support local biz -Sixpoint, local butcher's & bakeries.
May 8, 2012, 2:49 pm
Bengee from Coney Island says:
Hoagies what the hell are "Hoagies" doing in Brooklyn. There called 'HEROES"wake up.That's like putting Catsup on Hot Dogs.
May 8, 2012, 3:06 pm
no-permits from bed-stuy says:
daniel, go back to philly!
May 8, 2012, 10:50 pm
Juniper from Greenpoint says:
Coney island has always had a seedy cheesy side element to it. That's what people love about it and keep coming back year after year. Of course it has changed. See a steeplechase anywhere. The beer island garden was elitest and these restaurants will be too. Some will go there but not the masses that still long for cha cha's.
May 9, 2012, 3:55 pm
Old time Brooklyn from Slope says:
Brooklyn does not do "hoagies" - the midwest does - Honestly thats stuff is way to heavy for summer beach bites - (midwest bois and goils - we have an ocean here and not a great lake )
May 9, 2012, 11:15 pm
trans alt from my bike says:
Coney Island has always been a sh**hole, and probably will always be. Deal with it.
May 10, 2012, 12:31 am
ereina from North Slope says:
Zito's is a perfect fit for Coney Island!!!! Zito's has the best sandwiches in Park Slope. Good piece Bush...You are the man!!!!
May 10, 2012, 11:29 am
ereina from North Slope says:
Zito's is a perfect fit for Coney Island!!!! Zito's has the best sandwiches in Park Slope. Good piece Bush...You are the man!!!!
May 10, 2012, 11:29 am

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Links