Bensonhurst’s beloved Ortobello restaurant looks to rebuild after devastating fire

Ortobello restaurant fire
The fire broke out in Ortobello’s kitchen exhaust fan, where most of the damage was contained.
Google Maps/Courtesy of Ortobello

A 50-year-old Italian restaurant in Bensonhurst is looking to rebuild after a two-alarm fire tore through its kitchen last weekend, shuttering the eatery for the foreseeable future.

The blaze broke out just before 6 p.m. on April 6 inside Ortobello Restaurant, near the corner of 64th Street and Bay Parkway.

Owner Andrea Cerasuoli told Brooklyn Paper he is still in shock from the ordeal, recalling being in the kitchen when “all of a sudden there was just smoke everywhere.”

“I called 911 and had everyone leave the restaurant right away,” said Cerasuoli. “Unfortunately the flames did spread through the kitchen, and it did do a lot of damage so we have been forced to shut down until the insurance company carries out inspections and we rebuild the inside.”

Firefighters arrived on the scene to find heavy black smoke pouring out of the first floor of the family-run establishment, but managed to extinguish the blaze within a half hour.

The FDNY’s fire marshal later confirmed that the fire was accidental and started in the kitchen’s exhaust fan.

A Staten Island man who was driving by the restaurant when the fire broke out spoke to CBS about helping diners out of the smoke-filled eatery.

“We pulled over, ran in. My son started taking everybody out, yelling at everybody to call 911,” Joey Khoury told the station from his hospital bed where he was recovering from smoke inhalation. “It was scary. You don’t think about stuff until you do it. I was just thinking about getting the kids out, families out.”

Due to the extensive damage to the kitchen area, Ortobello will remain closed.Photos courtesy of Ortobello

Ortobello restaurant has been a staple in the local community since it was first opened by Cerasuoli’s father in 1974, and since his passing in 2018, his family has been trying to keep his spirit alive there.

A recent flood of donations to an online fundraiser set up by Cerasuoli’s childhood friend, Filippo Antonacci, underlines the community’s love of Ortobello and the Cerasuoli family. The GoFundMe page aimed at speeding up Ortobello’s restoration has so far raised over $10,000 since it was set up on Thursday, April 11.

“They have been part of the community for like 50 years, so it just shows you how much people love that place and frequented it,” said Antonacci.

“I was crying when he told me and because he knows the tough spot that I’m in now that I have no income coming in,” Cerasuoli said of hearing of the fundraiser. “I have kids and I have a wife and I also take care of my mom. So it’s been very tough.”

The restauranter said he has been shocked at how many people have responded so far and is more than grateful for their generosity.

“The community has been nothing but positive. They’ve been very helpful. Always checking in on me, calling me asking me how I’m doing, how’s my family,” he said. “It’s just been really tough and I’m just trying my best here to keep my head above water and to just live my life until I can get back up and running.”