A NEAPOLITAN FLAVOR-FUELED AND FAMILY-OWNED MULTI-LOCATION RESTAURANT FINDS A NEW PLACE IN SHEEPSHEAD BAY
BY MATT SCANLON AND JESSICA JONES-GORMAN • PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH
In casa di calzolaio, non si hanno scarpe.”
Translated roughly, this Italian proverb means, “in the house of the shoemaker, there are no shoes.” It has come to encompass the notion that in order to do well, it’s best not to work for others… that to start one’s own business and work for oneself is the path to wisdom, and hopefully prosperity.
Born in Naples, Italy, Giacomo and Gennaro Alaio came to the United States when they were just 8 and 10 years old to live with their grandparents in Brooklyn, and, early in life, grasped that entrepreneurial concept with notable determination.
Coming from a long line of restaurateurs, they were brought up in the business and always managed to find odd jobs in their father’s pizza shop after school. During summer breaks, Giacomo would journey back to Naples in order to work in his cousin’s restaurant in the Quartieri Spagnoli (Spanish Quarters), where the Neapolitan language is stronger than anywhere else in the city, and though relatively poor, is rich in flavour, both literal and figurative. There, he developed a particular fascination with cooking not least an associated appreciation that ultra fresh ingredients do a significant amount of the work. With a determination to bring some of the best Neapolitan recipes back to New York, in 1991 the brothers opened Patrizia’s restaurant in the Bronx, and its success led to additional locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and New Jersey. Over its 28 years of operation, it has grown to be one of the larger privately held restaurant chains in the city.
The most recent unveiling happened in Sheepshead Bay this past spring its footprint part of the historic Lundy’s Brothers Restaurant building on Emmons Avenue (Lundy’s operated from 1934 to the late 1970s, and again from 1997 to early 2007). “We actually have just a piece of that old building; it’s a big structure,” said Giacomo. “And we’re thrilled to be there, of course. The site was brought to us by one of our friends, who said that our style of cuisine would be a great addition to Sheepshead Bay. It’s an area rich in Greek and Turkish restau – rants, but underserved in Italian, so the site and the time were right.”
The co-owner explained that he and his brother built Patrizia’s menus to encompass dishes that strike both a familiar tone including a beautifully simple pesto gnocchi, pappardelle alla bolognese (listed simply as “just a great meat sauce,” but loaded with pork, beef, and veal), eggplant and veal Parmesan, and surf & turf (in this case skirt steak with shrimp) but also challenge even Neapolitan fans with something different, such as the house branzino, which is often presented in weekly specials.
“We’re known for our fish dishes,” said Giacomo. “If they’re on the list, I wouldn’t leave without trying either the branzino or the orate (sea bream).” Soups and salads, panini heroes, home-made desserts, and a kids menu round out the Sheepshead Bay selections, and for those keen for a multi-experience adventure, there’s Family-Style Dinner, which, for either $49.99 or $59.99 per person, takes diners on a journey that includes bruschetta, burrata, eggplant Parmesan, a variety of seafood, skirt steak, lamb chops, or chicken scarpariello, plus wine and dessert.
Specials change with the season, Giacomo explained, and this fall will feature wild game and chestnuts, among other delicacies. Also adaptable within the Patrizia’s structure is interior design, with this Brooklyn location conceived to include, as he put it, “a combination of Northern Italian and Eastern European sensibilities.”
Diners further flung won’t have long to wait for more options, too, as a Hauppauge, Long Island restaurant will open by December an Old Tappan, New Jersey location in November.
Asked what a 10-site business owner’s free time could possibly consist of, Giacomo laughed, but was quick to point out that he and his brother divide responsibilities, with Gennaro taking care of the Bronx and Long Island restaurants.
“After almost 30 years, this business still manages to excite me,” Giacomo said. “This is an industry that’s changing so fast, but it’s still fun coming to work. As long as that’s the case, I’m going to keep doing it.”
Patrizia’s, Sheepshead Bay
1901 Emmons Avenue / 718.942.4848 /