They opened their dream restaurant in Carroll Gardens. Then the pandemic hit.
The VIP/Press Event for Cremini’s restaurant in Carroll Gardens was in full swing on a mild evening in late February.
Within the well-lit and warm space, among the cozy-industrial bistro auspices, journalists and figures from the food world mingled joyously over both the unique delicacies and flowing wines, as well as the charming story behind the eatery’s founding: Newlyweds Elena Salati and Riccardo Massetti came from Italy with their imperfect English and American dream to open the city’s first restaurant dedicated to the cuisine of Le Marche.
No one suspected that the inspiring couple’s “love nest” would be shuttered to visitors within a matter of weeks.
The genesis of what would become Cremini’s was an act of love and food. The Piedmont-born Ms. Salati sought to impress Mr. Massetti, her boyfriend at the time, by mastering the cuisine of his home region, Le Marche, particularly the most notable dishes: cremini (fried sweet or savory custards) and stuffed Ascolana olives.
They were soon engaged.
Prior to their marriage, on vacation in California, the couple decided to combine her culinary expertise with his marketing experience and passion for Italian “Apertivo” tradition into the first establishment in America that featured the gastronomy of Le Marche.
After extensive research and consideration back in Italy, along with a wedding ceremony, Elena and Riccardo found a quaint retail space at 521 Court St. below an apartment where they could live.
Over many months, they worked tirelessly — on the decor and menu; on hiring and marketing and procurement — to bring the restaurant to life and officially launch their American dream with the VIP/Press event, which took place mere days after the Coronavirus outbreak was first reported in northern Italy.
When the virus spread rapidly and the Italian government announced restrictions on movement, the couple began to worry not just about their homeland but also about the potential impact of the crisis on America.
Ever resourceful, optimistic and hard working, Elena and Riccardo have done their best to face an obstacle that no fledgling restaurant could have anticipated.
They have adopted strict practices for safe food preparation and added lunch items to the menu as well, thinking of the home bound locals in need of midday meals; there are also new combinations for takeout or delivery via Caviar or Grubhub that include beer and wine, catering to different tastes and budgets; Riccardo is active on social media in order to keep their new friends in the area updated on specials and additions to the menu, such as mini pizzas and two types of focaccia stuffed with meat and cheese.
And like most small restaurants in this time of great economic uncertainty, they now offer e-gift cards and have a GoFundMe page to help keep their new business afloat.
The couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary on March 9, in their newly adopted homeland.
“We are still optimistic,” Riccardo said. “These days, we have the good fortune to have all the warmth of our friends in New York and the community in Carroll Gardens who support us with affection by continuing to enjoy our food that we prepare fresh every day.”
Andrew Cotto is the award-winning author of three novels and is a regular contributor to The New York Times. Andrew has also written for Parade, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, The Huffington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, Italy magazine, Maxim and more. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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