It’s the holidays, your sister’s getting married, that college roommate finally came and visited you…whatever the reason, you have family or friends here, and they ain’t from here, and you wanna show em’ what Brooklyn’s all about – from a taste bud’s perspective. So, where do you take them? Here are our humble recommendations:
For An un-fuhgeddaboudit experience
They want old-school, Italian Brooklyn? It’s hard to beat L&B Spumoni Gardens, both for their nationally-acclaimed pizza and the decades-old, family-run restaurant with a casual outdoor space as well as indoor seating for the colder months.
A bit farther off the beaten path is Lioni Sandwiches, a former mozzarella joint with a very long, very colorful list of heroes, all of which have an Italian persona. There’s the #62, the Alyssa Milano (“Call Collect For This One), the Marisa Tomei (fried eggplant, Lioni Fresh Mozzarella, and mushroom stuffing), and the Joe DiMaggio, to name a few.
Panino Rustico is an adorable cash-only Italian-American eatery that offers an assortment of classic eats and sweets. The portions are hearty, the salads are fresh, and the smoothies are incredible. If you’re lucky maybe you’ll meet the newest addition to this corner cafe: a little yellow Fiat 500.
For earth-shatteringly good cannoli
It’s hard to go wrong when picking where to get cannoli in Bensonhurst, but these two tried and true landmark neighborhood bakeries topped our cannolo poll back in October.
Opened in 1978, Villabate Alba is probably the neighborhood’s most iconic bakery. Stock full of Sicilian pastries, both classic and original (like the strawberry shortcake “burger”) these treats are so pretty, you really might feel guilty eating them.
Meanwhile Cannoli Plus may not be as enticing from the outside, but the plumes of sweet cannoli smoke emanating from the building will lure you in to this wholesale bakery where you can even pipe your own cannoli.
For a nice sit-down spot
You’d be hard pressed to find somewhere to shell out cash in Bensonhurst as fast as you can in Manhattan, but who needs overpriced white tablecloth restaurants when you can getter food for decent prices?
Pio Pio opened in Bensonhurst back in 2014, and has eight other locations sprinkled throughout the outer borough. Known for its traditional Peruvian eats drenched in a signature aji-infused light green sauce, the restaurant is renowned for its fantastic table service, elegantly presented dishes, and generally fun atmosphere.
Nyonya also has other locations (one in Manhattan and one in Boro Park) and stands out as a uniquely modern restaurant on 86th Street. They offer Malaysian cuisine in a chic setting and with generous portions.
For ethnic comfort food
Bensonhurst is just teeming with food from an impressively diverse array of formerly Soviet occupied countries. Of course there’s Russian options galore, but there’s also We Are Georgians, where you can try khinkali, the country’s traditional dumpling, and experience Georgian hospitality.
Or, you could try Belka Deli, which bills itself as a European Delicatessen specializing in Ukrainian delicacies like caviar and borscht.
For the best of 86th Street
For those not in the know, 86th Street is a petri dish of everything that defines Brooklyn: elevated subway tracks, awning-ed ethnic supermarkets, humans abounding, neon lights, and lots of mom-and-pop shops. Changing demographics have filled the formerly Italian strip with largely Asian businesses in recent years.
We recommend Kings Kitchen, where you can try yellow eel, jellyfish, and frog, and then head next door to Kings Bakery, and H.K. Tea & Sushi for Hong Kong street food and Japanese fare.
For simultaneous eating and shopping
Alright, these aren’t so much restaurants as they are straight forward supermarkets and malls, but they offer a unique experience browsing a different culture’s food stuffs, and then eating them on the street or taking your purchases home to make yourself.
The Wah Fung New York Mall on 86th Street has pickles and plums for bargain prices, not to mention 30 types of ginseng and withered mushrooms.
NetCost specializes in Russian products, and is also a generally thorough, well stocked supermarket with a great hot food section and lots of candy (we recommend the cow caramels).