195 Dekalb Ave., Fort Greene
Edoardo Mantelli already runs Bed-Stuy’s Neapolitan pizzeria restaurant, Saraghina, and, down the block on the corner, Saraghina Bakery, where you can get everything from a rustic Piedmontese-style loaf of bread to a jar of piennolo tomatoes grown in volcanic soil on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.
And yet the Milan native felt remiss in his duties as culinary and cultural ambassador. What Brooklyn needed, he thought, was a proper Italian caffè. “So I got inspired by the 1930s-era Viennese cafés of Torino and Milano,” he says. “And while my aim is not to live in the 1930s, that was my starting point.” Come July, he plans to unveil Saraghina Caffè, the type of all-day spot where you can have a cappuccino and a cornetto in the morning and return in the evening for an expert aperitivo paired with a salty snack or something a little more substantial. Think tramezzini on Saraghina Bakery bread washed down with Negronis, Spritzes, and Cardinales. Think crudo bar with a focus on carpaccio. Think Italian-marble floors and countertops, lots of oak, a “historically correct” mahogany façade. And think pizza, too, but smaller than the ones you get at Saraghina restaurant, and radically designed to be eaten with a knife and fork in the manner not exactly popularized by Bill de Blasio on Staten Island a few years ago.
Another radical–for–New York thing about Saraghina Caffè is the seats: 50 inside, 40 outside, and not a one of them at the strictly standing bar. What, you ask, does this man have against bar stools? “Standing is more convivial,” he explains. “For me, it’s super-Italian; there’s so many places I go in Milano and Torino and Paris where you really have to wedge yourself through to get a drink, and I think it’s fantastic. Even though we’re still living through the pandemic, and shoulder to shoulder is not cool right now, hopefully we’ll be out of that soon,” he says. “My grandfather lived through World War I and, right after that, the Spanish flu, and he told me that everybody was so ecstatic when it was all over that there was, like, an explosion of happiness and people getting together. So I think it’s going to be kind of like that.”