Italian food and the American South are colliding at Popina, opening Wednesday in Brooklyn’s Columbia Street Waterfront District from Union Square Hospitality vets Chris McDade and James O'Brien. The duo is taking over the original Pok Pok NY space at 127 Columbia Street, transforming it into a 60-seat restaurant complete with an outdoor bocce ball court.
McDade and O’Brien, who both had stints at Maialino (in addition to other Danny Meyer restaurants), want to blend the soulful Italian traditions Maialino specializes in with McDade’s Georgia upbringing. McDade’s menu (shown below) is under 15 items long, breaking it down by small plates, pastas, and larger dishes. That Italian-Southern narrative is heavy in dishes like hot chicken milanese with ranch dressing, burrata with corn bread, and arancini with Carolina Gold Rice. Other dishes like chitarra with Venetian salsa and breadcrumbs more clearly skew Italian.
Similarly, O’Brien has created a by-the-glass list that blends the two inspirations, sourcing all bottles from the US and Italy — with a single French nuance in the form of a 2008 Champagne from Tarlant.
Popina is set to open Wednesday, August 30, and will be walk-in only. To start, the restaurant will be closed Monday and Tuesday. Take a look at the dinner menu below.
Update: A reader pointed out Popina’s similarity to James Beard Award winning Hog & Hominy. The Memphis restaurant also touts a Italian and Southern America theme, and features a bocce court. Eater has reached out to Popina for comment.
Update: “I grew up in Georgia and have been cooking Italian food for a while now so this concept is a natural reflection of my style and vision,” Popina’s Chris McDade tells Eater. “I'm honored to be considered next to Hog & Hominy and can only hope to achieve a similar level of success. Would love to have the Hog & Hominy team up for a bocce tournament!”