I was walking in the predominately outward looking Chinese area of Bensonhurst Brooklyn, historically one of the most Italian places on earth out side of Europe.
Surprise encounter with those who share an ancestral land and ethnic national history with my flesh and blood.
- “Michelangelo Antonioni, one of the most innovative and distinctive film-makers of the 20th century….From a vacuous Italy to swinging London, Antonioni’s studies of modern alienation gave cinema some of its greatest moments. “-theguardian.com
On 18th Ave in Brooklyn, one can find community halls, that have not changed for 4 decades, Italian butcher shops, cafe-confectioneries, and restaurants, amongst the mostly recent decade or more old influx of Chinese businesses.
The most Italian place in NYC, without buying a plane ticket. As I entered yesterday one store front, at about 1 pm in the afternoon, was filled with older men, 30 and up. All we speaking Italian, no one was taller than I and some faces had features similar to my features, or variations, to some degree.
A good number of what obviously regular visitors to this establishment, were retired age, others younger, and all were engaged in socializing in pairs or groups of more than two.
The front room or store front section is comfortable with tables and a totally Italian ambiance in decoration (see photos) with wall art consisting of Greco- Roman style head sculpture, and flat painted figures and faces.
The store front space opens up through a doorway to a larger room with some tables and chairs, but empty as it is obviously used as functions. Beyond this second large room is a third, that has an ice machine and some idle furniture.
The atmosphere is so unlike a Starbucks, and more like a local old cafe in any place in Italy, cafes where they are meeting places for the men in the community.
Espressos were $2.00; Peroni 12 oz. bottles, and other beers only $3.00; cannoli and other pastries can be ordered, but for the most part, people are drinking small glasses of some wine or brandy that gets poured from a hug bottle behind the bar area, for about the same as the Peroni. There are whiskey and clear vodka looking beverages too.
I saw one man eating what the man behind the bar was preparing for a bit, looking like the typical toasted Italian sandwich called panini.
I took liberty of an espresso, after which I found that the surprise encounter with such a cultural relic in Brooklyn’s Italian community, one that gave me solace with my ancestry on my Italian natural father’s side, called for a bottle of Peroni.
The old Besonhurst, remaining from the days when the Italians predominated, demographically.