Sunset Park

Too many cooks spoil the broth? Not in Sunset Park

Cookbook of community recipes in planning stages

July 27, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Tony Giordano is collecting recipes from Sunset Park residents for a new cookbook highlighting the cultural traditions of the neighborhood. Photo courtesy Giordano
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Over the years Sunset Park has been home to waves of immigrants, including Germans, Irish, Norwegians, Latinos, Asians and Eastern Europeans, many of whom brought recipes from their home countries with them when they arrived on U.S. shores and invented new culinary traditions in Brooklyn.

Imagine what kind of cookbook could be written about Sunset Park.

Well, Tony Giordano doesn’t have to imagine — he’s doing it.

Giordano, a longtime Sunset Park resident who founded the nonprofit civic organization Sunset Park Restoration, is collecting recipes for a cookbook. The book’s working title is “Sunset Park Cookbook.”

The collection of recipes is taking place through Sunset Parker, a Facebook group that is administered by Giordano. Sunset Parker, which posts historic old photos of Sunset Park’s past and posts news of politics, crime, truck traffic and other community issues, boasts 6,000 members.

A cookbook is a logical step in the group’s progression, according to Giordano, who said it highlights the proud history of Sunset Park’s immigrants.

“Food is central to each of our cultures and we thought what better way to define Sunset Park than to publish a cookbook,” he said.

“Each ethnic group has shared its culture and while some like to refer to our neighborhood as a ‘melting pot,’ we prefer a ‘mixed salad.’ We are made of many ingredients, creating this salad, but never losing the taste of individual ingredients,” said Peggy Breen, a Sunset Parker member who is a contributor to the new “Sunset Park Cookbook.”

Giordano has also created a website, where the recipes will be posted. “Until we have enough recipes we will be posting them on a webpage for folks to enjoy and experiment with,” he said.

Giordano said that he believes it will take approximately a year to complete the cookbook project.

He hopes to have every Sunset Park ethnic group represented with several recipes each, he said.

The boundaries of Sunset Park run roughly from the waterfront to Eighth Avenue and from 17th Street to 65th Street.

Among the immigrants who brought their rich culture to Sunset Park over the past 100 years are: Germans, Irish, African-Americans, Scandinavians, Italians, Poles, Greeks, Puerto Ricans, and more recently, Dominicans and people from Asia, Mexico and Central and South America. 

While the cookbook will be a tribute to the immigrant experience, Giordano said the Sunset Parker Facebook page also hopes to see all recipes from Middle America, too.

Giordano is also considering including recipes from his family.

His wife Renee Giordano is the executive director of the Sunset Park Business Improvement District (BID). Her recipe, “Renee’s Stuffed Chicken Wraps,” consists of boneless chicken breasts filled with bread stuffing (rolled and pinned with toothpicks) and cooked in a cream of chicken soup.

“Mine would be Cheese Strata — quick and simple for our kids,” Giordano told the Brooklyn Eagle in an email. The steps are as follows: dip slices of white bread in an egg and milk batter and lay in a casserole dish covered with a layer of slices of American cheese, then another layer of dipped white bread and more cheese and then pour the leftover batter onto the mixture.

In the 19th Century, Sunset Park grew into a vibrant community, thanks in part to waves of Irish, Polish, Finnish and Norwegian immigrants who settled there, according to Wikipedia.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Sunset Park welcomed Puerto Ricans to the U.S. mainland, as well as immigrants from the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. In 1990, Hispanics made up approximately 50 percent of Sunset Park’s population, according to Wikipedia.

In the 1980s, Sunset Park started attracting large numbers of immigrants from Asia who established a Brooklyn version of Chinatown along Eighth Avenue.

The cookbook is sure to have a variety of recipes, according to Giordano.

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