Carroll Gardens

Praise Mary! Get to know a Brooklyn neighborhood that has kept its Italian identity intact.

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  • D'Amico Coffee

  • D'Amico Coffee

  • D'Amico Coffee

  • Yesterday's News

  • Yesterday's News

  • Sacred Hearts-St. Stephan Church

  • Ferdinando's Foccacceria

  • Ferdinando's Foccacceria

  • Deluxa

  • Deluxa

  • Caputo Bakery

  • Caputo Bakery

  • Caputo Bakery

  • Caputo Bakery

  • G. Esposito & Sons

  • G. Esposito & Sons

  • G. Esposito & Sons

  • Frankies Spuntino

  • Frankies Spuntino

  • Frankies Spuntino

  • Frankies Spuntino

  • Frankies Spuntino

  • Brooklyn Social

  • Brooklyn Social

  • Brooklyn Social

  • Brooklyn Social

D'Amico Coffee

Start: Carroll St F/G stop
End: Carroll St F/G stop
Distance: 2 miles
Time: 3 hours

Smith Street cocktails pull all the ink these days, but for old-fashioned Carroll Gardens, walk toward the harbor. Italians moved here to work the docks in the early 20th century, and glimpses of that community remain—like the warm-weather bocce crowd in Carroll Park (Smith St between Carroll and President Sts, carrollparkbrooklyn.org).

See how the streets looked in the 1920s by flipping through photos at vintage shop Yesterday’s News (428 Court St at 2nd Pl, 917-375-1361). Or pick up Catholic memorabilia like a sick-call box ($30), in which a priest would carry candlesticks and a cross for home visits. After you’re done browsing, wander down 1st and 2nd Places to admire the circa-1870s front gardens (complete with cracked Virgin Mary statues) that give the area its name.

The block-long Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen Church (108 Carroll St at Hicks St, 718-596-7750) was built in 1875 for the area’s once-numerous Irish. An Italian parish joined in 1941 after its church was bulldozed for the BQE. Back then it was home to 2,000 worshippers; now it’s a few hundred. Cross the highway on the Summit Street footbridge for a view of the split neighborhood.

After two blocks, turn left onto Union Street for a bite at brick-walled Ferdinando’s Focacceria (151 Union St between Hicks and Columbia Sts, 718-855-1545). Owner Frank Buffa, whose family has run it since 1904, says the old Italians still come for his rustic Sicilian dishes, like the arancia special ($6), a meat-flecked fried rice ball with ricotta and tomato sauce, and the panelle ($5), fried chickpea, ricotta and Pecorino stacked on house-made bread.

Crossing the highway again, stop by boutique Deluxa (187 Sackett St between Hicks and Henry Sts, 347-721-3401) for an outfit you might have worn to St. Stephen’s 50 years ago: long white gloves ($9) and a pink flower dress ($30). The colorful shelves also stock retro housewares, furniture and whimsical items—like a $25 red squeezebox.

Coffeeshops abound in Brooklyn, but 60-year-old D’Amico Coffee (309 Court St between Degraw and Sackett Sts, 718-875-5403) stands apart the moment you walk in: A heavy roaster swirls beans by the door, and dozens of blends fill bins on the wall. Little has changed since owner Frank D’Amico’s grandfather opened the shop in 1948. “We don’t even have whipped cream,” says Frank’s wife, Joan. Order like an old-timer by asking for “an espresso, and keep it short” (not too much water), then take home a pound of the Carroll Gardens blend ($10.59)—a mellower brew than the Park Slope.

A block away, pair your coffee with a biscotto regina ($4/lb) at Caputo Bakery (329 Court St between Sackett and Union Sts, 718-875-6871), family-run since 1904. The bread is baked on site in an oven imported from Italy, and locals come early to snag a loaf of bread stuffed with salami, cheese and lard ($4.25).

Court Street, like an Italian grandmother, just keeps feeding you. Look for the tall-hatted pig marking the entrance to G. Esposito & Sons (357 Court St between President and Union Sts, 718-875-6863), a 1922 deli and butcher smelling like sharp provolone and house-cured meat. With links hanging from the ceiling, it’s especially hard to resist the buttery soppressata ($17/lb).

For dinner, walk to Frankies Spuntino (457 Court St between Luquer St and 4th Pl, 718-403-0033), a relative newcomer whose expert renditions of meatballs ($9) and roasted-vegetable salad ($9) keep it packed. The decor, too, blends Carroll Gardens’ past and present, with a high tin ceiling, an open deli and a view of the elevated F train.

Have the vested bartender pour you a shot of grappa ($10) at Brooklyn Social (335 Smith St between Carroll and President Sts, 718-858-7758), whose 1930s look channels the Italian men’s club, Societa Riposto, which occupied the same space until 2003. “Very few people who aren’t Italian drink grappa,” says co-owner Matt Dawson. “But we go through it.”

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