After establishing the busting Il Sogno in Staten Island, Pedro Canelo brought his Italian classics to Park Slope, this time with a touch of spice

By Amanda McCoy • photos by alex barreto

Pedro Canelo’s multi-decade resume in the city restaurant business would likely impress even the most jaded of analysts. A native of Peru, he began his culinary career in iconic Italian nameplates like Marco Polo in Carroll Gardens and Mario Batali’s Babbo in Manhattan, and also worked under celebrity chef and celebrated author Lidia Bastianich. Over the course of three decades, Canelo worked his way from busboy to waiter to entrepreneur, before bringing an Italian fine dining concept to Staten Island in the form of Il Sogno (“the dream”).

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Seven years later, he’s adapting his Southern Italian dishes to a new and wholly different audience: the restlessly reconfiguring demographic that is Park Slope, but this time he’s sprinkling his South American heritage into the saucepan.

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Appropriately named Il Sogno Secondo, the restaurant features a menu of Italian- Peruvian fusion, where pico de gallo, purple potato, and avocado playfully accompany a variety of Italian classics.

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The William Vale Spread

“I’ve always loved food. I’m constantly coming up with new and different ideas,” he said, “and that’s what I’m doing here…combining Italian and Peruvian food, and so far people seem to love it.”

While the original Il Sogno found success in faithful and authentic renditions of Italian favorites, the wider variety of patrons in the Slope allows the restaurateur a chance to flex creative culinary muscles.

“In this neighborhood, there are so many different cultures—Spanish, Italian, and Asian among them—and they want to try new things.”

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Sicilian eggplant and grilled calamari are joined with Peruvian offerings like the country’s indigenous purple potato, stuffed with shrimp and vegetables.

Sixteen miles separate the two businesses, but culturally, an ocean divides them; Canelo knew the location would be a challenge, but he had some insights. The Slope site, helpfully, is nestled in his old stomping grounds; there’s a nearby park where he used to play soccer, and a former address is just around the corner.

“If I’d opened a second location in Staten Island, it would have been a little easier,” he said. “But over here, nobody knows Il Sogno, me, or my food, so things require time to get established.”

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Canelo’s adapted menu includes a wide range of proteins—veal, clams, filet mignon, chicken, rabbit, and lamb among them. There is a variety of appetizers, too, including Italian classics such as fresh mozzarella, Sicilian eggplant, and grilled calamari, along with uniquely Peruvian offerings like the country’s indigenous purple potato, generously stuffed with shrimp and vegetables and drizzled with a lobster sauce. Some dishes might appear classic on the plate, but finish with a subtle bite at the end—a testament to the owner’s South American flair.

Rotating dinner and wine specials mix up the routine, including offbeat surprises like fried oysters with pico de gallo and avocado mayonnaise, pan-fried eggplant stuffed with Sicilian cheese, tomatoes, and basil, and house-made pasta—rolled cannoli style and stuffed with veal and ricotta, then topped with pink shallot sauce. On the main menu, and quickly becoming an Industry staff obsession, is the Filetto Mignon Cucihetta—filet medallions topped with fresh mozzarella than wrapped in prosciutto and fried, and served in a sherry wine mushroom sauce—about as glorious as comfort food gets.

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Vino pours by the glass and bottle, and Mario Corry, the owner’s longtime colleague and Il Sogno Secondo’s maître d’, takes varietal pairing seriously.

“The dishes here are complex, with many flavors, and so they are fascinating to pair,” Corry added with a smile over a bite of Stinco Di Agnello (lamb ossobucco, served with Risotto Milanese).

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Canelo’s waiter days are reflected in small touches like decorative flowers and complimentary bites, as well as a focus on employee well being. Valentine’s Day was Il Sogno Secondo’s biggest receipts night thus far, and upon closing, the owner opened a bottle of reserve label wine and toasted his staff.

After all, he said, they’re all part of “the dream.”

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Il Sogno Secondo
310 5th Avenue / 929.295.9790 / ilsognonyc2.com