23 May 2011

The Menu at Cafiero's


During my years-long obsession with Cafiero's—the family-owned Italian restaurant that was a President Street legend back in the day, frequented by mobsters and judges and plenty of regular folk—I have grown accustomed to the fact that it left behind no paper trail. Private and old fashioned to a fault, Cafiero's had no matchbooks or napkins with its name on it, placed no ads, did no interviews. And there was no menu! I've been told a hundred times by people who actually went there. There was no menu! The waiter told you what was available and it could change every day. [CORRECTION: A reader write in to say: "Cafieros definitely did have a menu. It was a simply typed piece of white paper enclosed in plastic, listing the dish and the price. No description, just “Ravioli….$1.10”"

However, through various remembrances I've collected over the years, I think I am now able to reconstruct a reasonable facsimile of a typical evening's menu at Cafiero's. Or at least part of one. The Cafieros—owner Sharkey, his wife Anna, and his brother Frank, who was chef—were from Naples and served Neapolitan dishes. They served simple food, but well-made. And if you visited, here were some of the things you could order:


Appetizers
Potato Croquettes
Clams Oreganata ($1.50)

Sandwiches
Meatball, sausage, veal heros

Primi
Rigatoni
Cheese Ravioli ($1.10)

Secondi
Charcoal Broiled Veal Spedini
Vinegar Peppers over Grilled Pork Chop
Shrimp Marinara

Dolci
Tortoni
Spumoni

Vino
The house wine was a California Red from Cucomonga Valley


I learned recently from a reader that the storefront was blue. So we can safely surmise that the odd, cobalt blue panels that remain on the building are original. (See below.)


3 comments:

macdougalstreetbaby said...

I really appreciate your need to document old New York. Recently I have found the same desire brewing inside me. Thank you for documenting all that you learn.

stefanie B said...

I contacted your previously about Katie Cafiero. She is my Great Aunt. My Grandfather and her were siblings. She was the only girl of 6 brothers. I have found a picture of my sister and Aunt Katie taken outside the restaurant in the late 60's /early 70's. My mother was very close to her Aunt and she has many stories about the restaurant. I would like to forward this picture to you.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Thanks! Please send the photo to lostcitybrooks@gmail.com