Tasty restaurant gossip • Brooklyn Paper

Tasty restaurant gossip

Fantasy ‘Island’: John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia’s newly opened Beer Island is already drawing celebrities, like Danny DeVito, and locals — like Emily Schernau (left) and Michelle LaBlanc — alike.
The Brooklyn Paper / Jeff Bachner

Tongues are wagging that Shake Shack — the Manhattan-based burger and malted Mecca — is planning to expand to Downtown Brooklyn. A representative for the restaurant told GO Brooklyn, “New York is a city of five wonderfully distinct boroughs. As we expand Shake Shack, we want to think about the city as a whole.”

While we’re crushed that the Shack flack couldn’t confirm the tasty rumor, we’re still dreaming of enjoying a Double Shack Burger and root beer float without leaving the borough.

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It seems that every bartender has a different idea of what a “Brooklyn” is, and now coffee shops are getting in on the confusion. Starbucks cafes across the borough have been spotted with signs advertising “The Brooklyn,” a blend of the coffee behemoth’s vanilla and caramel “Frappuccino” mix topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce.

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While the newly opened Beer Island (located on Stillwell Avenue, between Surf Avenue and the Coney Island boardwalk) might not sound like the best place to take the kids, owner John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia is welcoming the whole clan.

The venue, a giant sandy lot that accommodates up to 500 people and serves almost 50 kinds of beer — hence the name — as well as wine and hot dogs (a larger menu is in the works), is meant to be more toned-down and family friendly than Ciarcia’s other bar, the legendary Cha Cha’s, just across the street.

“Beer Island is about people coming with their families,” said the gruff Ciarcia. “It’s like sitting on the beach and relaxing.”

You might also be able to spot a celebrity or two, since Ciarcia, who has starred in a number of movies and TV shows, including the last two seasons of “The Sopranos,” has a lot of famous friends.

“Danny DeVito was there last Saturday,” he said, almost as an afterthought. “He loved the place, he loved Beer Island.”

Ciarcia has plans to erect an outdoor stage at Beer Island, and throughout the summer will hold concerts, promotions and other special events, like a possible bocce ball tournament with Pabst Brewing Company.

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Summer in Cobble Hill just got a little bit sweeter. Last week, cookie czarina Melissa Murphy expanded her Court Street bakery, Sweet Melissa Patisserie, to include the new Sweet Melissa Cremerie, a one-stop shop for all of your ice cream needs.

Offering cones, shakes, malts, Belgian waffles and serious sundaes — “Jumbleberry Sundae” with strawberry ice cream, raspberry sorbet, meringues, berry sauce and freshly whipped cream — the shop will cater to the neighborhood’s sweet tooth.

“I’ve always wanted to open an ice cream parlor,” Murphy told GO Brooklyn. “So when the space next door became available, I decided to bring something new to the neighborhood.”

“I thought it needed an ice cream parlor,” she added. “And I’ve always had a thing for sundaes.”

Another perk of the adjacent Cremerie — twice as much garden! Murphy has doubled her outdoor space to give customers a quiet, relaxing spot to munch in.

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School might be out for the summer, but in Fort Greene, the Urban Assembly Academy of Arts & Letters is throwing its first ever “SummerFest,” from noon to 3 pm, on Saturday, June 21.

There will be games and an exhibit of student artwork, but we’re really excited for the “Taste of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill” part of the day. Local eateries Chez Lola, Graziella’s, Bacchus, Chez Oskar, Habana Outpost and Little House on Clinton will be providing snacks for attendees, giving them a chance to learn about the tasty options the neighborhood has to offer.

The event, which is being held at 225 Adelphi St. at Willoughby Avenue in Fort Greene, is free and open to the public.

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On Wednesday, June 18, the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Cooperative Daycare will be celebrating its fifth anniversary gala at Tamboril in Fort Greene. Co-sponsored by Clinton Hill wine shop Gnarly Vines, the fundraiser — tickets are $25 to $50 — will feature snacks from Habana Outpost, Spur Tree in Manhattan, Madiba, Choice Market, Maggie Brown, Pequena and Fairway.

For information, and to buy tickets, visit www.thecoopschool.com.

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Where there’s “Smoke,” there’s fire. In early July, Smoke Joint, the Fort Greene barbecue restaurant that’s already spawned the neighboring Little Piggy Market, will branch out yet again with Peaches, a Southern-tinged restaurant at 393 Lewis Ave. in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“We’ll be using down-home recipes with our culinary techniques to make it more Brooklyn,” said co-owner Ben Grossman. “There will be shrimp and grits and cornmeal-crusted trout, and we’ll feature items from Smoke Joint and Little Piggy, like the fresh-baked cheddar scallion biscuits.”

This next chapter won’t be the last for Grossman and his business partner, Craig Samuel.

“There is a tremendous amount of opportunity to service Brooklyn,” he said. “There’s a lot of different food stuff that hasn’t been tapped yet.”

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Tio Pio, a seven-year-old eatery in Downtown Brooklyn, has finally moved into a space big enough for its devotees. The new location, at 78 Willoughby St. between Bridge and Lawrence streets, has seating inside and outside, employs more staff, and offers an expanded menu with more salads and sandwiches. But you can still order the famous rotisserie chicken, and choose from an extensive list of sides like roasted potatoes to macaroni and cheese.

“It’s like homemade fast food,” said co-owner Javier Espinosa. “It’s like I’m preparing [food] for me, preparing food at home.”

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Chef Cody Utzman, formerly of Brooklyn Label, has struck out on his own with Papacito — “hot man” in English — a beer garden and taqueria serving up bare-bones snacks and big beers in a lot on Huron Street (between Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street) in Greenpoint. On a recent walk by, the space was so crowded that we had to move on to Acapulco around the corner to quell our guacamole craving. Welcome back, Cody!

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And now a PSA for CSAs. In the past weeks, both DUMBO and Fort Greene have kicked off their own Community Supported Agriculture groups, which bring fresh produce to members each week. Fruit and veggies come straight from farmers, giving members a chance to snap up low-cost, fresh produce and the farmers a chance to collect some up-front green before dealing with grocery stores and their ilk. Membership for this season has filled up for both groups, but visit www.fortgreenecsa.org or www.dumbocsa.org for more info.

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Finally, congrats to Dan Griffin of new Williamsburg java joint El Beit. Last week, Griffin won first prize at a “Latte Art Throwdown” in Manhattan, where baristas competed to create the prettiest peaks of steamed milk.

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