As if things couldn’t get any worse for embattled Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D–Williamsburg), now his favorite restaurant has closed.
Brooklyn politicos are mourning the closure of Cono and Sons Restaurant, the family-owned Italian eatery in Williamsburg that shut two weeks ago after its owner Cono Natale decided to retire.
“I wish [Cono] many future successes in the next phase of his life and I want to thank him for all the delicious food and delightful parties attended in the past decade,” said Councilman Steve Levin (D-Williamsburg), who has dined at Cono’s for five years, first as a staffer to Lopez, then as an officeholder himself.
The restaurant has been a fixture since 1984 — and to be a fly on its wall has meant listening in on private conversations between Lopez, the county’s Democratic Party chairman and the Assembly housing chairman, and a panoply of aspiring pols including Hillary Clinton, Carolyn Kennedy, Kirsten Gillibrand and Harold Ford, all of whom dropped by at various times to figuratively kiss the county leader’s ring.
Mayor Bloomberg, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D–Manhattan), then-Comptroller Billy Thompson, and even Gov. Paterson made the trip to Williamsburg to lunch with Lopez, posing for photos with the legislator that proudly hung on a wall near the restaurant’s entrance.
Lopez’s two lunches with Ford earlier this year brought such a media frenzy to Cono’s that the normally media-averse Lopez held impromptu press conferences prior to each meal, stealing headlines from the charismatic Senate hopeful.
But — and perhaps most importantly — Cono’s was a hangout for Lopez and his friends to relax and talk political strategy away from the stressful confines of the office — with the joint’s beloved calamari, veal and fresh fish dishes.
Lopez is facing intense public scrutiny following a city investigation into the nonprofit he founded as well as a mini-revolt among the party’s county committee members, so he no doubt misses a comfortable yet refined place to order antipasto and be alone with his thoughts.
“I don’t know where Vito is going to have all his meetings,” said Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island), who is a fan of the restaurant’s signature sautéed peppers. “Cono’s was great and I had a lot of good food and good memories there.”
— with Tom Tracy