Five Iconic Italian Eateries That Have Withstood The Test Of Time

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Source: Facebook/VillabateAlba

Source: Facebook/VillabateAlba

By Jerry Del Priore

There’s something to be said for food establishments that have withstood the test of time. With places seemingly opening one day, and closing the next, Bensonhurst has a large number of fantastic Italian food establishments that have been around for years, surviving and thriving through the of toughest of times.

So get ready to tantalize your taste buds with a delectable cannoli or a savory slice – perhaps even a little pasta or an Italian Hero.

Mangia.

1. Villabate Alba

7001 18th Avenue

Since 1979, the Alaimo family has been bringing the finest authentic Sicilian pastries, cookies, cakes, and breads to the good people of Bensonhurst and beyond. In fact, Villabate Alba has arguably the best cannoli – stuffed with sheep’s milk imported from Sicily to make the ricotta cream filling – in the city. “Two to three hundred are sold daily from Monday to Thursday, and four to six hundred from Friday to Sunday,” said Anthony Alaimo, who, along with other family members, has taken over full-time operational responsibilities from his dad, Emanuele. Previously located on 72nd Street and 18th Avenue, Villabate Alba moved to its present digs at 7001 18th Avenue – the former site of Alba Bakery, a neighborhood institution since 1935 – in 2007 to serve a larger cliental. The Alaimos decided to keep the Alba name on the sign out of respect for the previous owner, Alaimo noted, and combined it with Villabate, the name of their hometown in Sicily, Italy.

2. John’s Deli2033 Stillwell Avenue

For true Brooklynites, John’s Deli, in operation for over 45 years, is the place to go for a mouthwatering Italian hero. John’s Deli, with the elevated D train hovering above in the background, is like a trip back in time. First, if you leave a tip, don’t be surprised when the workers yell, “Thank You, Subway.” It’s to commemorate when, in the 20s and 30s, the subway fare was a nickel, and people would generously tip local retail workers so they get home. It was later revived at John’s in the 60s and 70s by a costumer, who informed then-owner John of the custom. Secondly, it’s not for appearance, but the food is legendary. Its signature roast beef – smothered with mozzarella, sautéed onions and John’s Deli’s secret, special gravy – has been referred to by its loyal customers as the best they’ve ever tasted, bar none. I also love the Godfather, which boasts five different hardy meats with a variety of cheeses. This sandwich is so unbelievably appetizing that you won’t be able to refuse it (pun intended). The fried chicken cutlet with broccoli rabe and mozzarella and the chicken parm heroes are other lip-smacking options, as are the meatballs, fried ravioli and rice balls – stuffed with ham and cheese. Fuggettaboutit!

3. Da Vinci Pizzeria 6514 18th Avenue photo 1 (1) I have been going to Da Vinci since my childhood days, and it’s still one of my favorite pizza destinations to this day, especially for a Brooklyn Neapolitan. It must be the way the sauce and mozzarella ceremoniously come together, creating a symphony of greatness. Established in 1966, Da Vinci is owned and operated by brothers Angelo and Antonio Gnerre, who produce great pies founded on the recipes of their father, Fedele, a self-taught pizza chef who hailed from Avellino, Italy, the same town from where my parents originated. Aside from the pizza, Da Vinci serves up fantastic pepperoni rolls and an awesome eggplant panini.

4. Queen Ann Ravioli & Macaroni 7205 18th Avenue Alfredo Ferrara’s rise from meager beginnings to prominence is the classic immigrant success story. Leaving Italy in 1955 for America, he worked hard, and returned home in 1960 after saving up enough money in order to marry his childhood sweetheart, Anna. Following their wedding, the Ferraras ventured back to US, and worked tirelessly for several years before opening up Queen Ann Ravioli & Macaroni in 1972. Spanning over 43 years and three generations of Ferraras, the old-school charming Italian shop still manufactures fresh pasta and shells made daily on an old-fashioned hydraulic press built in Manhattan’s Lower East Side over 100 years ago. In addition, Queen Ann produces fresh made egg batter crepes for their delicious manicotti daily, along with cavatelli, agnolotti, gnocchi, ravioletti, stuffed rigatoni, tortellini, and tortelloni. They also carry a variety of imported specialty Italian products.

5. Bari Pork Store 158 Avenue U This place isn’t for vegetarians, as the name states. But if you have a carnivorous appetite, then Bari Pork Store is for your palate.

A photo posted by Julianne (@jewelspok) on

After over 40 years in business, the self-proclaimed “King of Sausage” still packs in patronages with a list of great Italian specialty meats, heroes, rice balls and prepared dishes such as fried artichoke hearts and hot antipasti.

They also offer a diverse import product selection including pastas, sauces, canned goods, seasonings, beverages, and dried goods.

Correction: A photo of heros used in an earlier version of this article was attributed to John’s Deli, when in fact the breads pictured were from at Lioni Italian Heroes – another classic Italian establishment in Dyker Heights.

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  • ThisGuy

    Thumbnail picture of Lioni… yet, no Lioni on the list.

    • Good point — fixed!

    • tonigirl1113

      Lions’ king of the mozzarella Y

  • Sean F

    Wow! I’ve lived in Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst for 39 of my 49 years, and never had food from any of these places. Time to rectify this sad situation. Thanks Jerry and Bensonhurstbean.

  • ROSALIE907

    You didn’t include L & B Spumoni Gardens on 86th Street which has been in business for over 60 years and several other places that have also been in business 60 to 70 years (what about Cuccio’s Bakery on Avenue X).

    • ThisGuy

      Not technically Bensonhurst. Top picks though on the article posted on the Gravesend Grain.

      • Melissa

        Gravesend Grain? I’ve never heard of this page and Google is of no help. Do you have a link?

      • ROSALIE907

        Never heard of Gravesend Grain and can’t find it either. Besides, Bensonhurst Bean covers Gravesend.

  • Michelle Bryan

    Omg I miss Queen Ann ravioli!!!!!!!!

  • Samantha

    I lived in Brooklyn from birth until 2011 when I moved to Wisconsin. I ordered pizza kits last year for my husband’s birthday from DaVinci and it was AMAZING. We live in a town that has a pizzeria owned by a guy that used to own a pizzeria in Bensonhurst, and it’s almost like being back in NY… but just not quite. It’s that NY water.

    And no matter if we drive an hour or two south of where we live now — as they have two Italian delis that come real close to the experience of being in a salumeria … the Italian bread is still off. MY KINGDOM FOR REAL ITALIAN BREAD!

    • Joey Binky Sabella

      I also moved to Wisconsin a few years ago and can’t find a decent pizza. Where is this pizza place you mentioned above? I miss our old home and the tastes we had there. I hate Wisconsin.

  • ML

    So is Gravesend part of Bensonhurst (new to me) because Bari Pork has got to be
    in Gravesend, no?

    • Jerry Del Priore

      No, there’s one on 18 Ave.

  • Dawn Gannon Tozzi

    Restaurants that should be added are New Corner & Ortobello! & yes L&B Spumoni Gardens should be on it too! As well as Pastosa! Johns deli is under new ownership, I don’t think by Italians, food is still good but definitely not the same.

    • Honestly, John’s sux now.

    • Animo916

      Yes new owners for almost 5 years now. Portions are smaller, food not as good, and neither is the service. Last week I went to Staten Island for some of the real deal from Rob and Lenny. Boy I wish they were still in Brooklyn. As mentioned before…John’s Deli now sucks.

      Also a thumbs up for Ortobello’s!

  • Rob

    Pizza Den, New Corners, Joe’s of Avenue U, Pastosa and for the life of me I don’t know why Lioni’s is not on this list!!!

  • tonigirl1113

    live on west 9th and u shopped at bari all the time

  • Erin

    I can’t believe j & V isn’t on this list. DaVinci is definitely the best for squares but j & V is the best for slices.

    • EndofDaze

      Erin your comment about J and V is appreciated and would be spot on if the original owners who established that once great pizzeria in about circa 1957 still ran the show! Originally next to the SBSB on 18th Avenue, it moved a block away to the corner of 64th Street in about 1967 this seminal establishment has seen better days. I should know, as we use to go there for lunch in the mid 1960’s in the days when Shallow, that great Junior high school was able to let the kids out for lunch! It was 15 cents a slice and great camaraderie from the owners John and Vinnie! This writer even use to deliver for them in later years! Unfortunately with John’s sad passing a number of years ago, Vinnie having less to do with the running of it, and the one time Fine manager Gino leaving for southern climes many moons ago, J and V is not the best as it once once was! Add to that the dearth of cugines and landsmen that once frequented the place, and the fact that Joe now runs the place! And have you met Joe?! I don’t need to write more, except to write! Oh, How The once Mighty and classy have fallen.

  • Pete

    New Corner Restaurant on 8th avenue NEEDS to be added to this list!!

    • Sean F

      New Corner is a classic, red sauce Italian place, and the food is good. But, it desperately needs a renovation. The carpets are dingy and there’s an odor from it that reduces my enjoyment. For some reason, the Coke is always flat, with too little syrup.

      And I say that as a someone whose family goes there regularly, and celebrates lots of birthdays, communions, confirmations and anniversaries there. I’m a die-hard, and I love the place, but a little TLC would elevate it back to the really great place it was in the 70s and 80s.

  • Morty

    I go way back to the 1950’s lived 50st & New Utrecht Ave. How about Luigi Alba pastries…the best. And Jonny Red’s Pizza on 13th ave. and 39st. I went to Pershing Junior High. and PS 105 on Fort Hamilton Pkway. “Those were the days”.

  • 18th ave bakery is amazing and has been around from before 1976. It’s located on 18th ave and 60th st, Benson Hurst and arguably has the best bread and butter cookies in all of Brooklyn.

  • anonymousbro

    everything on this list is good, except john’s deli. that place is REALLY overrated and overpriced for what you get.

    • Emerald5Forever

      I was debating whether or not to go try it. I live not far away, and I have heard pretty good things about the eatery, but at the same time people have been saying the deli’s been skimping on meat…

    • John’s isn’t owned by the same people anymore, that’s why it sux now.

  • Diane Venezia

    This article also forgot Frank and Sal’s on 18th Avenue

  • vivbiond

    You forgot Pastosa Rsvioli.