As the Carroll Gardens of yore fades into the Smith and Court Street song and dance it’s ever more difficult to track down an authentic Italian experience in a neighborhood still populated as much by well-heeled Manhattan transplants as it is by Marys on the half-shell.
When the Cammareri Brothers Bakery (Moonstruck!) closed years ago, it marked the exodus of these sort of joints. Relics of the early 20th century, their legacy was one of flaky sfogliatella, long, sesame-studded loaves of bread, tiers of cake thick with marzipan and candy flowers, and mealy cookies garnished with pignoli nuts or stuck together with sheets of raspberry jelly. When Monteleone’s, another ancient Court Street bakery shuttered in May, it seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for the wilted Italian pastry aesthetic.
But in a twist more thrilling than Cher’s falsetto, Gothamist was relieved to find out that the two bakeries have joined forces, reopening as Monteleone & Cammareri Bakery in February.
Spirits were high on a recent Saturday when chef and co-owner Lenny Cristino pulled trays of his sweet handiwork from a glass-front oven and invited curious onlookers in for a taste. A tray of signature Chocolate Chunk Cookies, hefty slices of cheesecake and chocolate dipped strawberries were among the treats on offer at the bakery. Cristino, who studied pastry at the CIA, says that many of his recipes date to 1902—a fact that has lent the chef a kind of culinary street cred (the press frequently cited his triple ricotta cheesecake as among the best in New York). Come spring, residents can look forward to homemade ices, the absence of which was much-bemoaned by fans of Cristino’s work last summer. Monteleone & Cammareri will also feature a range of breads, baked on premises using recipes and techniques developed over 80 years at Cammareri’s original Henry Street digs.
Cristino plans on “getting on that zero trans fat thing,” offering a selection of light(er) fare in addition to the pasticiotti and bocconotti of his youth. “Both of our stores were here forever,” he says of the union. “We’re bringing old-world Italian baking back to Carroll Gardens.”
Monteleone & Cammareri
355 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231