Assemblyman Vito Lopez is in enough trouble as it is — but the closure of his favorite restaurant/hangout Cono and Sons Restaurant sent even greater shockwaves through Brooklyn’s political establishment.
Yes, we’ve all lost a great family-run Italian restaurant, which dished out heaping plates of political conversation with a side of pasta fagioli since 1984. But fear not, hungry politicos! There are other places from Lorimer Street to Graham Avenue to chew on pasta with red sauce, drink Chianti by the glass, or gossip about the latest federal investigation of a beloved-but-possibly corrupt public official.
Many of them are restaurants run by several generations of Italian-Americans, largely serving neighborhood residents whose ancestors immigrated to Brooklyn a century ago.
If you go, you may even find yourself seated next to a future councilman trying to earn the endorsement of the county boss or a state legislator spilling his guts to a wired government informant over a plate of cold antipasto.
Or maybe you’re that federal agent yourself. In that case — expense the veal.
If there’s any one joint that can fill the void left by Cono’s sudden departure, it’s Bamonte’s, the only restaurant in Williamsburg that almost predates the neighborhood’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel feast.
Firmly planted on Withers Street, a quiet residential stretch two blocks from the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway, Bamonte’s has been serving handmade cheese ravioli to generations of gourmands since 1900.
When you go, stick with the simple dishes that Bamonte’s is known for — appetizers such as clams casino, eggplant rollatini, and prosciutto with melon; or pastas such as rigatoni with vodka sauce, gnocchi with Bolognese sauce and, of course, the homemade ravioli.
The red sauce restaurant’s interior has barely changed since the 1950s, boasting the same tuxedo-clad waiters that served the Brooklyn Dodgers. In those days, a trolley used to run from Lorimer Street straight to Ebbets Field. These days, you’re more likely to end up seeing Bamonte’s on a rerun of “The Sopranos,” which featured the restaurant in four episodes a few years ago or run into the restaurant’s owner, Lisa Bamonte, a Community Board 1 member.
What you may not see are actual mobsters. According to a 2009 New York Post article, probation officers told Anthony “Fat Tony” Rabito to “stay away from the hot places” for a few years, one of which was — you guessed it — Bamonte’s.
Bamonte’s Restaurant [32 Withers St. at Lorimer Street in Williamsburg, (718) 384-8831]. Open Wednesday-Monday, noon-11pm.
If it’s seafood you desire, then head up the street to Frost Restaurant on the corner of Frost and Humboldt Streets.
For 45 years, the neighborhood stalwart has been quietly serving some of the best Italian food in Brooklyn in an atmosphere more casual than its white tablecloth peers.
The only mob you’ll find here is the glut of people standing in the narrow entrance waiting for a table to open up. If you’re planning on dinner on the weekend, make a reservation.
Start off with baked clams and stuffed peppers and work your way around zuppa di mussels or linguine alla Frost (mixed seafood with red sauce) and the calamari fra diavolo before diving into the seafood platter — an assortment of calamari, mussels, shrimp and scungilli in marinara sauce served over biscuits fried in olive oil.
After the meal, order a shot of espresso, which also happens to be among the best in Brooklyn.
Our advice? Get a head start on the political machine by founding your own political club and holding regular meetings there. Be sure to report all meals on your campaign filings as “unrelated business expenditures,” to not arouse suspicion. Invite the press.
Frost Restaurant [193 Frost St. at Humboldt Street in Williamsburg, (718) 389-3347]. Open Tuesday-Sunday, noon-10:30pm
Tucked in a quiet corner of Graham Avenue, La Locanda, which means the gathering place, has a homey, benevolent atmosphere that matches meticulously prepared fresh pasta dishes and homemade soups.
Perhaps that why so many of New York’s Finest — including Police Commissioner Ray Kelly — dine there.
Owner Cono Colombo and his wife Maria draw inspiration from the southern Italian cuisine they grew up eating, with an emphasis on lentil and bean soups, and baked pasta dishes.
Try the pasta fagioli and the roasted peppers for appetizers before noshing on the reasonably priced spaghetti alla marinara, homemade fussilli alla pomodoro, chicken francese, eggplant rollatini, and baked ziti.
Try not to bother the police and undercover federal investigators who are enjoying plates of penne alla vodka with extra Parmesan. Sometimes justice deserves a lunch break.
La Locanda [432 Graham Ave. at Frost Street in Williamsburg, (718) 349-7800]. Open Monday-Saturday, 11:30 am-9:30 pm.
After all that food, you’d be doing your community a disservice not to have a scoop of the most arresting gelato in New York City for dessert.
Fortunato Brothers has been baking wedding cakes, pastries and cookies — not to mention freezing its delicious 24 flavors of gelato and sorbetto — on Manhattan Avenue for neighborhood residents all year round.
The secret has long been out — tables are filled with as many hipsters as hormonal, well-tanned and spiky-haired teenagers and neighborhood paisanos with stories from the old days when Dominick “Sonny Black” Napolitano nearly made Joseph “Donnie Brasco” Pistone a made man on the streets Williamsburg 30 years ago.
These days the action around the bakery is a little slower — but be sure to congratulate Mario Fortunato if you see him behind the counter for being released from prison in February after his murder conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of New York.
His eight counts of racketeering were also dropped — in case you’re asking.
“At one point, they said I was keeping the gun in a brown paper bag here at Fortunato’s,” Fortunato told the Greenpoint Gazette. “But we only have white paper bags here — you’ll never, ever see brown paper. There was never any evidence.”
Fortunato Brothers [289 Manhattan Ave. at Devoe Street in Williamsburg, (718) 387-2281]. Open Monday-Thursday and Sunday, 9 am-11 pm; Friday-Saturday, 9 am-midnight.