To celebrate three decades of thriving in the borough’s rapidly changing landscape, Carroll Gardens’ famed Marco Polo Ristorante threw a 30th anniversary dinner on June 20 for nearly 100 loyal customers.
The sit-down wine-paired party was co-hosted by Borough President Markowitz and MC’ed by Carlo Scissura, the president and chief executive officer of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Special guests included former Borough President Howard Golden and former congressman Ed Towns, who cut the ribbon at Marco Polo’s opening.
Legendary Brooklyn restaurateur Joe Chirico vividly remembers starting the famed restaurant 30 years ago. Like the Venetian explorer he named the restaurant after, Chirico was a trailblazer.
“I really took a chance at the time,” said the Naples-born businessman who brought authentic, traditional Italian fare to Court Street. When the fine dining establishment opened in 1983, it got off to a slow start. Although now it sits in a trendy neighborhood, at the time there was nothing like it, offering unfamiliar ingredients such as imported buffalo mozzarella, porcini mushrooms, and truffles.
Business was tough because customers were looking for simple plates, such as spaghetti and meatballs, and not the high-end menu originals like rack of lamb and oysters Rockefeller.
“They weren’t expecting that,” said the Italian cuisine pioneer.
But over the years, the elegant restaurant built a loyal clientele, and became a renowned establishment. It has made headlines for hosting stars such as Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler — and for its alleged mafia ties.
Chirico said that the restaurant’s fine cuisine and warm hospitality keep patrons coming back for more.
“Any customer who walks through that door, we’re gonna’ treat them like a friend,” he said, adding that the majority of his wait staff has worked for him for more than 25 years.
“We did something right,” Chirico said.
The celebratory bash even had a presentation on the history of Marco Polo by writer Giorgio Ceraudo.
“It feels very great,” said Chirico. “We are very honored to have a place for 30 years and it feels as fresh as the day we opened,”
Last year, the eatery underwent a chic renovation that drastically changed the look and feel of the old-school restaurant in order to cater to a younger crowd.
“We had to go with the times of the neighborhood,” he said.
After the posh makeover, Chirico put his culinary-inclined son, Marco, in charge of the eatery.
“I’m very proud that my son took over to continue the tradition in the Chirico family, and I know he’s going to do better with it than I did,” he said.
Marco, who began bussing tables in Marco Polo at age 12, is now the head chef. When he took over, he created a more modern menu that includes gluten free house-made pastas as well as the traditional classics. He also owns Enoteca, which sits on Court Street next door to Marco Polo.