Carroll Gardens

This restaurant opened just before the pandemic. On reopening night, their tables were filled.

July 2, 2020 Andrew Cotto
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Like mint growing through the cracks in urban sidewalks, many restaurants that have endured through the pandemic are showing signs of life as Phase Two kicks in and outdoor table seating is allowed.

Among the most miraculous of survivors in Brooklyn so far is surely Cremini’s, a boutique Italian bistro on Court Street near the shadows of the BQE.

As first reported here, the eatery officially opened in the weeks prior to the pandemic.

Complicating matters was the unlikely narrative of the establishment, owned and operated by newlyweds from Italy who came to America, with no personal connections whatsoever and no formal restaurant experience between the two of them, to open the first restaurant in New York featuring the food of Le Marche, a central peninsula region on the Adriatic coast.

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A plate of olive all’ascolana at Cremini’s. Photo: Maurizio Bacci

Yet, after 80 days of lockdown, and the myriad other complications, two tables appeared tucked against the quaint storefront of Cremini’s, among fledgling fig trees and columns wound with grape vines.

Credit for the decor and the survival goes to the owners, chef Elana Salati and aperitivo expert Riccardo Massetti, who manned the restaurant all 80 days without help or holiday, from lunch through dinner each day, carefully reconfiguring the menu to accommodate takeout and delivery without compromising the ethos of the establishment.

Though the restaurant was originally only open for dinner, Salati and Massetti added an assortment of Le March inspired sandwiches to appeal to a lunch crowd of first responders, essential workers and telecommuters. Takeout Spritzes and regional wines accompanied dinner orders of their signature dishes.

In the process, the young couple from Le Marche has connected with the neighborhood in meaningful ways, both gastronomic and personal, not otherwise possible except through crisis.

Owners Elena Salati and Riccardo Massetti opened Cremini’s not long before restaurants across the city were shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Maurizio Bacci

“We have no regrets of having come here because we have found so many friends who support us and who want to discover our food and culture,” Riccardo said on opening night of Phase Two. “We want to thank the neighborhood community and Brooklyn as a whole, which is now, to us, a most special place in the world.”

That evening, the tables outside Cremini’s filled before sunset. Seated at one of them was renowned food stylist and cookbook author Victoria Granof, who shared her reason for being there.

“A neighbor of mine forwarded me their Instagram,” she said. “She’s been getting pouches of Spritz cocktail and fried stuffed olives delivered and having her own little aperitivo hour out on the stoop just like somewhere in Italy. I came here with a friend as soon as Phase Two started. Elena and Riccardo are so sweet! So glad they’re part of the neighborhood!”

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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