05 November 2007

A Lost Little Italy



The two blocks of Brooklyn's Third Avenue between Union and Carroll have often made me wonder as I passed them while seating in the B71. There seems to be old Italian enclave there, but I've never heard anyone talk about the area in those terms, though I have read here and there that Italian-Americans were once thick upon the ground thereabouts.

Near Union on Third is the cryptic Two Toms restaurant, an anonymous red-sauce joint with no posted menu and very limited hours. It always seems to be booked by a private party. If you do get in, the selections will be rattled off to you by a gruff guy who might also be the chef. The tables are tables. The chairs are chairs. It looks like someone's rec room. And at the end of the meal someone will scribble down a figure on a piece of paper and that's what you pay.

Anchoring the area on the other end, on Carroll Street just around the corner from Third is the more famous, much more posh, hundred-year-old Monte's, a former speakeasy and hangout of Sinatra, smack in the middle of a residential block, with beautiful views of the Gowanus Canal. More Italian food.

In between is the imposing Glory Social Club (Inc., thank you very much) and the straightforward Italian American Grocery, with Coke signs on either side, though this latter, 60-year-old, family-owned shop was recently gutted and is being converted into something else (a bar or cafe, I'll wager). And then there's my favorite, the abandoned awning for the once going concern called the V.M.P. Salumeria. Some odd sort of office work is going on in there now; could be a numbers joint, for all I know. Does anyone out there know anything about Third Avenue? Or would you be killed if you said anything?


7 comments:

J$ said...

I didn't realize that Two Tom's was still in business. It looks like it closed up 25 years ago. There's also a pizza joint Carroll and 3rd, it's either newer or renovated, not sure.

Save said...

Back in the 1980's I remember my neighborhood of Corona, Queens being heavily Italian but by the late 1990's there must of been only one Italian family left. It seems the whole neighborhood moved to Long Island. Now the Dominicans,Puerto Ricans & Colombians are following the same pattern but they are moving to Florida or Pennsylvania(wherever the cost of living is lower). Soon New York will only be for the rich.

WWW.SAVELOUIS.COM

Jason said...

2 Tom's is great. Mildly terrifying the first time, but after that I was a convert.

AR said...

I used to live on Carroll between 3rd and 4th. It is basically an extension of Carroll Gardens, which is its own Italian-American enclave. My landlords were a super sweet couple who had lived there for 50 years. It's hardly frightening, or some strange curiosity.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Ar, I'm sure there's something to what you say. An extension of Carroll Gardens across the Gowanus Canal makes the most sense. But, cut off as it is, it does come off as a bit of an oddity. And before you say it's not scary, pay a visit to Two Toms unannounced or gaze deeply into the Glory Social Club.

Julie Kelly said...

I hope that the 60-year-old, family-owned shop which was recently gutted and is being converted into something else will work in the same way. Keep updating.

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mike said...

The italian side of my family immigrated in 1884 and lived on this block from at least 1900 to 1954. This was the first stop for many people from their town, Sant Angelo di Lombardi, who lived mostly along President and Carroll street. They ran bars along third and fourth ave. Last names include Pomarico, Salerno, Petito, and Cona. There is a great picture of the Societa Di Giovanni Battista parade here: http://www.oocities.org/thereillyfamily/neighborhoods.htm