I've posted on this blog before about a legendary eatery (at least in my nabe) that used to exist on President Street between Hicks and Columbia. It was called Cafiero's, and apparently function from the 1920s until sometime in the 1960s. It was a favorite both of Brooklyn judges and politicians and local mobsters, as well as the occasional celebrity, like Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe.
Unlike some famous restaurants of the New York past, it seems to have disappeared without a trace, aside from the remembrances of local oldtimers. It's never mentioned in articles or books about Old New York, or even ones about Old Brooklyn. The building, 97 President St., is still there, which is a marvel in itself, since the construction of the BQE and extended digging along Columbia in the 1970s destroyed many of the original structures in the area.
To get a better idea of the place, I sent away to the Municipal Archives for a tax photo of the address. Looks like a quaint, cozy little place, complete with cloth awning and the restaurant's name in handsome (I assume gold) script above it. I can't imagine they had room for more than 10 tables inside, which perhaps lent to the joint's reputation for exclusivity. I've run across some some posts about Cafiero's on The South Brooklyn Network—a chat room for old Red Hook and South Brooklyn residents to shout out "Hey, Joey!" and "How's cousin Francis?" and talk about the teachers at Visitation Catholic school and their favorite bygone ice cream joints. People talk about having their Confirmation dinner there, or it being their first fancy dining experience as a kid. They all seemed to like it. Wish I could get ahold of an old menu. (Then again, it was probably the kind of place where the waiter told you what was available that night.)
I'm intrigued by the old guy in the picture, hands on hips, listening to some fella's spiel. Could it be old man Cafiero himself? The photo shows a barber shop to the left, a grocery store to the right, both long gone.
Below is how the Cafiero's building looks now. It's a private residence. I have a hunch that the large piece of metal screwed to the section of wall about the door hides the original Cafiero's sign. It looks like a quickie job. There are other remnants of the building's old life, as well.
These cast borders on either side of the structure are evident in the old photo (if you quint your eyes).
And the old awning was probably strung through these fixtures.
Finally, I have a good feeling that these few ornamental, pale-blue tiles were part of the Cafiero's front stoop.