Traditions of yore

for The Brooklyn Paper
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December is a stressful month. Building snowmen, roasting chestnuts and opening those Advent calendars can really take a toll on a busy Brooklynite. Yes, tradition says that this is a time for families to gather around the kitchen cooking and listening to Mannheim Steamroller, but who wants to spend Christmas Eve buying bags full of groceries at a supermarket with the population density of Singapore just to remember on the way out that you forgot the eggnog?

Simplify your life and enjoy the holidays in a restaurant. And don’t go into Manhattan and end up at some sad Midtown hotel dining room surrounded by homesick tourists. We’ve looked around and found some restaurants right here in Brooklyn that will make your Christmas memorable. Whether it’s the entire feast of the seven fishes offered in Boerum Hill or the anticipation of antelope au poivre in Brooklyn Heights, this borough has what it takes to ensure this holiday is extra special.

Areo Ristorante

Everyone in your party will be happy ordering a la carte at this 19-year old Bay Ridge Italian restaurant. Enjoy traditional dishes such as “orecchiette alla pugliese,” little ear-shaped pasta prepared with broccoli rabe, sausage, red pepper flakes and garlic, or “vitello alla Milanese” a veal dish doused in breadcrumbs and whipped eggs and seared in olive oil. Meals are served up in a boisterous, swanky atmosphere.

Owners Rino Aprea and Robert Silvestri said that customers are welcome to try the seafood salad, a classic Christmas dish in southern Italy.

Extended families and packs of single guys and gals fill out both dining rooms, and everyone will be in the Christmas spirit. Rino said the place is fully decked out with Christmas lights, but if that’s not enough for you, walk over to Dyker Heights to burn off some of that pasta and see some truly over-the-top Christmas light displays.

Areo (8424 Third Ave. at 85th Street in Bay Ridge) accepts American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. Entrees: $14.50-$22.50. Open noon to 5 pm on Dec. 24, closed Dec. 25. Subway: R to 86th Street. For more information, call (718) 238-0079.

Henry’s End

On Christmas Eve, this 34-year-old Brooklyn Heights neighborhood fixture will be smack in the middle of its annual Wild Game Festival. Although he hasn’t set the menu quite yet, chef Mark Lahm could include anything from ostrich to antelope au poivre.

For the non-safari set, he’ll also offer duck, fish and even a vegetarian option. But who knows? That free glass of champagne might encourage some culinary adventure.

Henry’s End (44 Henry St. between Middagh and Cranberry streets in Brooklyn Heights) accepts American Express, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. Three-course dinner including champagne: $60. Open 5:30 pm to 10 pm on Dec. 24, closed Dec. 25. Subway: A, C to High Street or 2, 3 to Clark Street. For more information, call (718) 834-1776 or visit

Marco Polo Ristorante

While it’s closed on Christmas Day, the night before Christmas is the perfect time to dine at Marco Polo. Warm, festive dishes like “fettucine al vino rosso,” or red wine fettuccine tossed tableside in a gigantic wheel of Parmesan cheese, and “costoletta de maiale al calvados,” a pork chop sauteed with apples and apple brandy, will fill you with cheer before Santa even begins his descent.

Executive chef Bruno Milone’s hearty Italian fare goes perfectly with a glass — or bottle, it is Christmas after all — of red wine, and the restaurant’s stunning dining room rivals any tree in town.

Marco Polo Ristorante (345 Court St. at Union Street in Carroll Gardens) accepts American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. Entrees: $14-$28. Open 1 pm to 9 pm on Dec. 24, closed Dec. 25. Subway: F, G to Carroll Street. For more information, call (718) 852-5015 or visit

The River Cafe

You’ll definitely be dining with a few Manhattanites and tourists at this DUMBO landmark, but don’t let that discourage you. No restaurant in New York can compete with the River Cafe’s swoon-worthy views, and the food is just as exquisite.

Christmas Day is the time to go, when chef Brad Steelman offers his four-course feast including such jaw-droppers as foie gras with roasted apple and gingerbread “French toast,” and venison with chestnut spaetzle and wild lingonberry sauce.

The River Cafe (1 Water St. at Cadman Plaza West at Fulton Ferry Landing) accepts American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. Lunch entrees: $24-$39, Christmas Eve three-course dinner prix fixe: $95, Christmas Day four-course prix fixe: $125. Open noon to 2 pm and 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm on Dec. 24, and 1 pm to 8:30 pm on Dec. 25. Subway: A, C to High Street or 2, 3 to Clark Street. For more information, call (718) 522-5200 or visit


The Italian Christmas Eve tradition of “La Vigilia,” or the Feast of the Seven Fishes, lives on at this Boerum Hill Michelin one star. Chef Saul Bolton changes his menu every year, but expect a variety of beloved seafood selections including “baccala” (salted codfish), calamari and possibly his famous chowder. Whatever he cooks, this Le Bernardin alum knows his way around a fish.

Dinner service ends at 10:30 pm, so you can run around the corner to St. Agnes in time for midnight mass.

Saul (140 Smith St. between Dean and Bergen streets in Boerum Hill) accepts American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa. Feast of the Seven Fishes: $90. Open 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm on Dec. 24, closed Dec. 25. Subway: F, G to Bergen Street. For more information, call (718) 935-9844 or visit

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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