“We’re The Only Bar In Bay Ridge Without A TV”: How A Gravesend Local Founded The Owl’s Head

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Owl's Head owner John Avelluto pours our drinks in his designer t-shirt. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)

Owl’s Head owner John Avelluto pours our drinks in his designer t-shirt. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)

Bay Ridge is known for its small town feel, its Middle Eastern cuisine, longstanding Italian bakeries — not so much its upscale bar scene. So for those who’ve seen or experienced The Owl’s Head, first impressions likely included, “What’s a wine bar like this doing on 74th Street?” and “Oh no, gentrification has finally found this neighborhood too.”

Au contraire — this quaint locale is not the product of transplants out priced from Williamsburg but a homegrown southern Brooklynite from Avenue Z, attempting to fill a nuanced hole in the area food scene.

“Growing up in Gravesend, I had always come down to Bay Ridge – I had a lot of friend in the neighborhood and I went to Xaverian,” Owl’s Head owner and founder Avelluto told us when we dropped by to check out the place for ourselves.

Inside the Owl's Head. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)

Inside the Owl’s Head. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)

Arriving on a weeknight soon after opening, the place was near empty, with John playing server and chef. On the weekends, when it gets very busy, he has help from employees, he assured us.

Even once the place began to fill up a little later in the evening, John still managed to greet everyone by name, and served everyone at a comfortable pace.

The Owl’s Head has a classic wine bar look and feel, with some personal touches like a chalkboard menu high up on one wall, and a projector showing an eclectic German film on a different wall.

The Owl's Head. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)

The Owl’s Head. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)

From the wines, with John’s help, we selected an $8 glass of white from Spain and an $8 glass of red from Slovenia. Both were delicious, and while the options for those trying to spend $8 per glass were extremely limited, all choices appeared loving picked and far above average.

In addition to drinks, there is also a menu of appetizers including a cheese plate, crostinis, and mushroom rice balls, all handmade by John.

The Owl’s Head opened in 2011, and John is well aware of the stereotypes people associate with a wine bar in this part of Brooklyn. “The threat of North Brooklyn development is really encroaching upon Bay Ridge, for better and for worse,” he said.

A most delicious bread, cheese, and jam appetizer recommended to us by John. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)

A most delicious bread, cheese, and jam appetizer recommended to us by John. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)

For John, the best parts of the Owl’s Head are the intimacy, the small size, and the one-on-one service he is able to give to his customers, virtually all of whom he says are locals.

He isn’t sure if Gravesend is ready for a bar like this quite yet, but the response he’s gotten from the Bay Ridge community has been only positive, despite some publications shrugging off the Owl’s Head as an alien, hipster establishment.

Although, to be fair, “I think we’re the only bar in Bay Ridge without a TV,” John laughed.

The Owl’s Head
Where: 479 74th Street
Hours: Closed Mondays, open Tuesday through Thursday 6 p.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., and Sunday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Phone: (718) 680-2436
Reservations: No
Kid Friendly? No

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About Author

Hannah Frishberg is a 4th generation Brooklynite and editor of the Bensonhurst Bean. You can reach her at editor@bensonhurstbean.com, via Twitter @BensonhurstBean or via the Bensonhurst Bean's Facebook.

  • 1ifbyrain2ifbytrain

    Always an excellent selection of bottled and canned craft beers too!