When in Brooklyn, do as the Romans do.
Williamsburg is home to a new Italian restaurant straight from the boot-shaped country itself, after an Italian family chose the hip neighborhood for the opening of their second restaurant because they say it reminds them of their own hip hometown.
“We chose Williamsburg in Brooklyn because it reminded us of Travestere, the neighborhood in Rome in which we are located,” said Francesco Panella, who owns the new spot Antica Pesa on Berry Street with his brother.
Panella said the Italian and the American neighborhoods were similar in that they are both removed from other parts of the city by a river — the Tiber in Rome, the East River in New York City — and both went through periods of turbulence before emerging as successful and highly developed today.
Others, like Brooklyn Courier photographer and Milan-native Stefano Giovannini, had a more straightforward take on the neighborhood’s similarities.
“Travestere is like the hipster neighborhood in Rome,” he said.
The restaurant serves Italian pasta staples like spaghetti cacio e pepe and homemade gnocchi with tomato and pesto, as well as heavier fare like braised beef cheek with carrots and thyme and Roman salt cod.
And while Italians have made Brooklyn their home for generations, the owners of Antica Pesa say they meet many newly arrived Europeans in Brooklyn, mainly Parisians, and that they’re the first of a soon to come Italian wave.
“In Europe, Brooklyn is considered one of the coolest spots right now,” said Panella, who was a TV host in Italy for Sky broadcasting, and will soon film a show about Brooklyn cuisine for the TV station.
“I probably consider myself one of the first Italians here, but am honored to be able to partake in this cultural phenomenon.”
Antica Pesa [115 Berry St. between North Seventh and North Eighth streets in Williamsburg, (347) 763–2635 www.anticapesa.us]Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg