Nino's Pizzeria has been an Carroll Gardens institution since, well, they began to call South Brooklyn Carroll Gardens.
But, now, it's no more, my friends. Walking by Nino's corner at Henry and Union, I was greeted by papered-over windows and some impromptu signs that said "Excuse Our Appearance. Coming Soon Francesco Eatery."
As I stood staring, a man walked out the entrance. He confirmed that Nino's was gone. The owners had sold out, and Francesco Eatery would be a completely different concern, not some Nino's 2.0. "Same concept, better food," he said. He added that there will be table service, something Nino's never had.
Nino's was founded in 1968 by the Caltado family, when the surrounded area was still pretty rife with Mafia, with no dreams of yuppification. (There were still a few pushcarts on Union Street.) The place was divided in two, a long counter of pizza and chafing dishes on one side, a room of additional seating on the other. It used to be far scruffier and imbued with more character before the nabe's recent real estate boom. Everyone spoke Italian and the hot dishes were advertised through wordless paintings hanging above the counter.
The place has gone through about a million renovations in the past five years. At one point, it sported some ugly, screaming-red neon signs saying "Italian Eatery." After that, some fancy awnings made their debut and a hand-lettered sign said "Under OLD Management." The interior kept getting more polished and less interesting, though you could always count on the horrible old oil painting of a drunken codger cradling a bottle of wine.
The food was good, never great, and always a bit on the expensive side. But the white slice was mighty fine. RAI was always on the television. And I'll miss the old Italian guys handing our forever.