Welcome to Ask Eater, a column from Eater New York where the site’s editors, reporters, and critics answer specific or baffling restaurant requests from readers and friends. A new question and answer will run every Thursday. Have a question for us? Submit your question in this form.
My mom lived in NYC in the late 1950’s, and I’ll be bringing her here for her birthday in March. Do you have suggestions for a dinner for two at a place that reflects old-time New York, such as Schraffts or the Horn and Hardart Automat?
— Looking for Historic Dining
Though I immediately thought of Katz’s Deli or the snaking lunch counter at Grand Central’s Oyster Bar, where the era is right and the food is excellent, I rejected those because they didn’t seem quite celebratory enough for a birthday party. Since your question doesn’t specify a neighborhood or price range, this allowed me to roam freely over the city’s ample supply of retro restaurants.
I think the best place for you and your mom is Bamonte’s. This venerable southern Italian restaurant in Williamsburg was founded over a century ago, but the decor definitely says 50s — and the crowd will make it feel old-school, too. You’ll still see old-timers with impressive hairdos and priests with clerical collars among the guests. The dining room is lined with oil paintings and Roman sculptures, and the tables are big and comfortable. The service is attentive and old-fashioned.
The food achieves a high standard, especially if you stick with the Italian-American favorites that form the heart of the menu. That means baked clams, eggplant rollatini, baked and stuffed pastas like lasagna and ravioli, and chicken cacciatore or pork chops with sweet and hot peppers. And finish off with a freshly filled cannoli or slice of Italian ricotta cheesecake.
And wish your mom a happy birthday from Eater New York!