Tony Scotto's roots in Carroll Gardens stretches back generations. He grew up in Nyack, New York, but recalls coming to the Brooklyn neighborhood almost every weekend to visit his family, and of course those trips involved food. So when he moved here three years ago, it was like coming home.
He's currently the chef de cuisine at Del Posto, one of the top-rated and most acclaimed Italian restaurants in New York City. But when he's home, he's fiercely loyal to the Italian-American and local businesses. Scotto shared his favorite spots and even a little history about some of the mom-and-pop businesses.
Pizza: I love South Brooklyn. It's next to P.J. Hanley's, the oldest bar in Brooklyn. I like that it's the only place that's open late that has a good slice. I like the plain pizza and load it up with everything, especially the side of roasted garlic and pickled cherry peppers. It's seasoned really well compared to the mainstream places open around there. It's a little more hand crafted with someone snipping basil on top of the pizza. And I like crispy pizza, when the crust is burnt. When P.J. Hanley's was operating, you could order at the bar and get a pizza. It was a simultaneous transaction.
Burger: I actually haven't had a burger in quite some time. MooBurger is pretty good, though. It's up by Strong Place by the Cobble Hill Cinema. I had a regular cheese burger there once it was a good quality product.
Sandwich: I want to give a shout out to Ferdinando's Focacceria. I think it's very, very important to the neighborhood. You can get an old school panelle sandwich, which is fried chick pea with some ricotta and a squeeze of lemon juice. They do a spleen sandwich, too. It's a place we shouldn't forget about. It's like a step back in time when you cross the BQE and walk through the door.
Bread: Mazzola's lard bread. Theirs is supreme. It's crusty on the outside, chewy in the inside. If you walk around the neighborhood and catch it when it comes right out the over, there's nothing better. We started going there when I was a kid. My grandma told me they would cook people's turkey for Thanksgiving. Not everyone had ovens in those days and you could pay the bakery a little and they'd do it for you.
Dessert: Court Pastry Shop. The sfogliatelle is a super flakey pastry with ricotta and lemon in the middle. It's transformed in America to like a lobster tail. Any of their cookies are good. I really love their sesame cookies, especially dipped into black coffee.
Coffee: If I'm getting coffee I usually go to Court Street Grocers. I get the drip coffee. They use Brooklyn Roasting Company. Just a little milk, a little sugar. You don't want to try to damage the good stuff so much.
Bagel: I like Brooklyn Bread. I actually had one this morning. They're flatter, and when they're toasted, they get crispy. They're thinner than water style bagels and make a great sandwich. They also go heavy on the seasonings.
Breakfast/brunch: Bar Tabac for brunch. It's straightforward, simple French bistro food. They're so nice it should be illegal. When my family is town, Buttermilk Channel is a favorite. They're super friendly, it's close to apartment and prices are solid. They're always packed for brunch.
Dive bar: Abilene late at night. You just want to have a nice cold beer before you go home when you go there. I can also bring my black German sheperd.
Favorite bar: BGH (Bar Great Harry). They're also pretty cool about letting me have my dog in there. The guy who owns it used to do pastry at Del Posto. He has a monster beer list. It's super casual there and you get all walks of life in there. There's a good music selection.
Italian-American food: I think Sam's kind of sticks out in my head. It's a red sauce kind of joint. It's certainly not fancy. I'm trying to word this properly. If that's what you want, an old time Italian American kind of thing in a setting that hasn't changed, I think that's the place to go. It's like a timepiece for the neighborhood.
Ethnic: No. It's not that great. My wife is Filipino. If we're going to leave a borough for ethnic food, we'd go to Queens.
Shopping: Good Food. But it just closed actually. Two Italian brothers had owned it for decades. They used to have the best mozzarella in the neighborhood, super soft and not bouncy. I also go to Fairway in Red Hook. I's walkable from my apartment. I can make a long morning out of it. You can walk to Red Hook and there are a lot of gems down there.
Date night: La Vara is very well executed, and one of the more polished dining options in the neighborhood.