Bay Ridge

Amunì: A real Sicilian experience in Bay Ridge

June 5, 2023 Andrew Cotto
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Chef Vincent Dardanello of Amunì in Bay Ridge grew up in the predominantly Italian American community of West Caldwell, New Jersey. His extended family of Sicilian descent was so large that they practically constituted an enclave unto themselves. On any given Sunday, as many as 40 relatives would pass through for Sunday lunch at Dardanello’s grandparent’s house. 

It was this experience, more than anything else, that inspired Dardanello to attend culinary school after a year of college. After graduating from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, he earned a scholarship to study in northern Italy at the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners in the Piedmont region. The scholarship was for a year; he stayed for five, the latter four in a local restaurant owned by a couple from Naples who had migrated north in the ’70s. So, Dardanello had the dual experiences of being trained in a classical Italian manner while also working extensively in Neapolitan cuisine, both buttressed by a childhood and adolescence immersed in authentic Sicilian fare.   

Amunì’s owner, Vincent Dardanello. Photo: Andrew Cotto

Back in America in the early aughts, Dardanello worked at an array of Mom & Pop Italian restaurants, soon becoming disillusioned with the red sauce circuit. “It’s delicious food, comfort food, don’t get me wrong,” Dardanello said. “It just wasn’t the food that I grew up eating or studying and preparing in Italy.”

After a transition into corporate restaurants that brought Dardanello around much of the United States, he returned to the New York area and opened, with a partner, a chain of burger joints, a trend at the time that proved prosperous but left Dardanello fried (yes, pun intended!) after a decade of pushing out uninspiring food. 

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Just before the pandemic, Dardanello and his partner split up the burger business.  Dardanello took the Bay Ridge location and made it his own homage to the Sicilian food he grew up eating and cooking, elevated by the techniques learned in his training. He opened Amunì, which is Sicilian dialect for the communal imperative of “Let’s go.” 

The backyard at Amunì. Photo: Andrew Cotto

And when you go to Amunì, the narrow storefront on 3rd Avenue below 74th Street is marked by a Vespa out front. The interior is sparse, of brick and imported tiles, marble-topped two spots, artwork and odes to Sicily and the owner’s experiences (like the very grinder he used as a kid to make breadcrumbs). Past the beverage cooler and service counter in back is a passageway to a spacious, manicured backyard with slate tiles and shaded tables. 

Arancini. Photo: Courtesy of Amunì

Whether eating inside or out, the menu is replete with authentic Sicilian fare to enjoy from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The ten antipasti offered include Arancini, Caponata, Carciofi Fritti  (fried artichokes) as well as some seasonal and unique items, like Carduna (fried cardoons). Among the ten panini are the Sicilian street-food classic of Panelle (crispy chickpea cakes on a roll with Ricotta, Caciocavallo and lemon zest) and Pane Conzatu (ciabatta topped with sardines, ricotta salata, arugula and peppers). Sicilian style pizzas are offered in six varieties; the “Classici”, or main courses, feature Pasta al Forno, Pane Sassiza (sausage, caramelized onion and mozzarella rolled in fresh dough), and a nod to Sicilian American cuisines in an eggplant parm. Among the desserts are the usual suspects of Cannoli, Granita, Tartuffo, and Affogato. The brunch menu on Sunday, from 11:00 – 3:00, supplements the regular menu with eggs, fruit and pastries. 

Dardanello’s eatery represents the experiences of a trained chef who studied extensively abroad and brought it back home. 

The interior of Amunì. Photo: Andrew Cotto

“This was my food. This was my passion. I learned how to do it the correct way. I saw how to do it Grandma’s way,” Dardanello explained. “At the end of the day this is a business, but you also want to serve delicious food.” 

At Brooklyn Tables agrees. Amunì!

Andrew Cotto has been eating his way through Brooklyn for 25 years. As an author, the food of our borough has been featured extensively in his novels and journalism. In his new column for the Daily Eagle, Andrew will tell the tales of Brooklyn eateries, from the people behind the food to the communities which they nourish.

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