Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Trattoria Trends

This hiatus has been one of effort, investigation, clone-wrangling and watching the Mets getting ritually mutilated. But I have found out something very important about the restaurant scene in Brooklyn, a subject that will appeal to whatever dribble of traffic remained after the Sheep Station-inspired Brooklynian-lanche.

Indeed, last night, ambling up Fourth Avenue in the bluster without anything so much as a brolly, I lurched into Sheep Station in search of victuals. But while they have by now printed a menu, they have also embarked on some manner of kitchen renovation, so as to render them incapable of serving up food. We repaired instead to Mulino, a block up Douglass on Fifth, and site of serviceable Italian comfort food.

For what it's worth, I had the prix fixe with house wine, yer basic pasta with meat, and a slightly smaller chicken francese than the a la carte option would have provided. Mrs. Cutesome had the pasta puttanesca ("Do ya think it's a bit, tarty?" she asked), and a ginormous caesar (a Little One might have been less appealing, mind). The entertainment came from the dubious Bay Ridge adulterers canoodling at the adjacent table and some execrable 50s Italian pop.

But the meal gave me a chance to settle one mystery of the Fifth Avenue restauarant scene. On this block, between Sterling and St Johns/Douglass, there is an Italian restauarant at each end with similar signage. There's Mulino, which has been here longer, and then there's Mangia, at the Sterling end. Mangia used to be a basic pizza slice place, which distinguished itself by coating its crusts with sesame seeds.

A few years back, and with little fanfare, the place decided to go upmarket. So, the slices got relegated to a corner, the chianti bottles with candles got busted out, and they started offering unlimted Bloody May/Mimosa brunches. About this time they acquired the Mangia name, and the new signage. I even fancied I saw the manager of Mulino, a distinguished looking gentleman with swept-back hair, loitering at the back of the new place.

"So what gives," I enquired of our waiter, "do you guys have the same management?" I could tell he was jonesing to close up show now that the Ridgers had taken their affection somewhere less public and the take-out orders had dried up. But he answered me, nonetheless. "No connection at all, what makes people think that?"


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