Sandy swamped their People’s Playground dreams, so now they’re seeking higher ground.
Park Slope hero hub Zito’s Sandwich Shoppe was set to open a location on Coney’s Jones Walk in the summer 2012, but first insurance delays, and later the October superstorm washed the plan away. So Zito’s owners decided to instead open an outpost in a neighborhood that’s coming up just as fast — Bay Ridge.
“We found a space and it happened to be perfect timing,” said the popular eatery’s co-owner Marcello Bucca.
Bucca said opening on Third Avenue between 76th and 77th streets in Bay Ridge — scheduled for Jan. 20 — will be a homecoming of sorts for himself and his partner Enzo Conigliaro, both originally hailing from Bensonhurst. But Bucca — who attended the Ridge’s Xaverian High School and who currently lives in neighboring Dyker Heights — said that unlike their native neighborhood, Bay Ridge is becoming a magnet for the same cool clientele that chows down on their meatball parm and pork braciole sandwiches in the Slope.
“Going back to Bay Ridge is quite nostalgic in a way,” said Bucca. “But Bay Ridge is also getting hipper, getting cooler. It’s becoming extremely popular, and people are going that way because of the higher rents in Park Slope and Windsor Terrace.”
Cheaper rents are also part of why Bucca and Conigliaro were interested in opening in the Ridge. The pair had to close their second location on Seventh Avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets after the rent skyrocketed by $10,000. The two now have a 15-year lease on a storefront in the Ridge at just a fraction of that cost.
Bucca says the new spot will be both a step forward and a throwback for himself and for the neighborhood. The new location will slice and serve salume from Faicco’s Pork Store on 11th Avenue in Dyker, and bread from Bensonhurst’s Il Fornaretto Bakery on 17th Avenue. At the same time, it will also pour trendy Stumptown Coffee and Six Point lager, along with 75 other domestic craft beers and two Finger Lakes wines. And the setting will feature an exposed brick wall, hardwood floor, old-school hip-hop playing over the speaker system, and soccer games at all times on four flat-screen TVs.
“Being Italian, you grew up eating this food because it filled you up,” the sandwich man said. “Nowadays, with how we’ve progressed as a culture, we’re taking it to a different level and bringing it into 2014.”
Bucca and Canigliaro aren’t the only Southern Brooklynites to make a return after hitting it big Downtown. Bay Ridge-born cupcake power couple Matt and Allison Robicelli opened a new bakery on Fifth Avenue between 90th and 91st streets in November 2013.