HOW THIS SHEEPSHEAD BAY ITALIAN STANDOUT PUT A FRESH SPIN ON WATERFRONT DINING
BY ERIK SCHONING • PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH
In 2015, the owners of Yiasou, a Greek joint on the popular Emmons Avenue strip in Sheepshead Bay, were looking to open a second restaurant. In any town, that’s tough proposition. No one can be two places at once, and conventional wisdom says that both locations run the risk of suffering in the execution. For the Katsichtis family, though, the solution turned out to be simple: open up shop next door.
After Superstorm Sandy, the former site of Mambo Sushi became available, and a vision formed for Next Door, a pared down Italian restaurant and pizzeria. Yiasou, previously featured in this magazine (“On the Waterfront,” July August 2019 issue), is a classic white tablecloth operation serving fresh seafood, wine, and upscale Greek cuisine edit staff favorites including atherina (sand smelt), koutsomoura (red mullet) and sfirida (white grouper). Owners Michael and George Katsichtis knew that any new restaurant would need a different look to avoid redundancy.
“We were looking to bring more of a modern NYC vibe to Next Door, which we did with the décor and design,” Michael said. “It has a younger feel, which people are happy about. We hear a lot of positives.”
Even from the street, those differences are clear: Next Door’s exposed brick, open and sleek floor plan, and rustic interior are notably distinct from the adjacent eatery. Another nod to the younger generation: there are outlets aplenty. It’s a look apace with any modern restaurant in the borough. To match that, the Katsichtis brothers needed a light, versatile menu, and knew they also wanted to honor the rich legacy of Italian fare in the area.
“I dine pretty frequently around the city,” George said. “I just put most of my favorite dishes that were needed in the neighborhood. There’s a lot of Turkish and Russian food here; I just wanted to give it a little kick.”
Both brothers wanted to do a lighter take on pizza, eventually settling on 10 inch thin crust varieties that could be ordered as entrees or appetizers. Next Door also serves up classics like eggplant Parmesan, calamari fritti, and lobster ravioli. Unlike the Emmons Avenue Italian joints of yesteryear, here you’ll find plenty of salads: the red beet and goat cheese selection is a particular fan favorite. Diners will also find burgers, including the ever popular salmon burger. It’s an unorthodox menu that’s deliberately flexible, perfect for families, dinner dates, and light lunches. There’s even a second level that can be reserved for private events.
“You don’t want to just be known for one thing,” Michael said. “It allows people to come back more often. You start to understand all ages of clientele and how you can make the experience better.”
The new restaurant has required some work. Michael, whose specialty is the kitchen, has done a deep dive into the world of pizza in pursuit of the right thin crust product. Next Door’s wood and gas combo oven, visible from the dining room, took some mastering. And getting the right dough texture and consistency proved a trial and error filled experience.
“It’s interesting how much goes into making it and the science behind it,” Michael said. “Even though pizza has been around forever, it’s always updating. There are so many different styles.”
Between Yiasou and Next Door, the Katsichtis family is able to serve a wide swathe of city denizens and tourists, a smart business decision in a fast changing hood. And the two establishments are integrated as much as possible (including being joined by an open space), and it’s not uncommon to see Michael or George running from one to the other. The standard of service is always the same, however, and behind the scenes, too, there is synthesis.
“We made it easier on ourselves by having one kitchen,” said Michael. “Our kitchen team is experienced enough that I know it can handle it.”
The links between Italian and Greek cuisine are an advantage when running such a dual kitchen. A wealth of family experience helps, too. Michael and George’s parents, Anna and Peter Katsichtis, have been in the restaurant business for over 50 years. The brothers are able to divide responsibility between themselves, making sure that an owner is always on hand an airtight management structure in an industry that punishes mistakes. In essence, though the entire family is involved, Next Door is very much a project of the sons.
Asked about plans to tweak either restaurant’s approach or menu, the brothers expressed contentment with the current synergy Yiasou’s classic fare and Next Door’s sleek look and creative menu.
“I don’t think we’re going to change anything,” George said. “It works. We all have the same goals, my mom, my dad and my brother.”
2005 Emmons Avenue / 718.942.5870