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Colandrea New Corner


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#1 Sneakeater

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Posted 01 August 2010 - 07:02 PM

When I was a kid, there is no question that Red Sauce Italian was my favorite kind of food. I've been searching for that kick over the last few years, but I've always come up short. Now that I've eaten at New Corner, I think I see why.

The Red Sauce places I've tried over the last few years have all been fairly fancy. Manducatis, Parkside, Piccola Venezia. All the ceremony and pretense raises hopes. It makes you think that this will be fine food that can compete with haute cuisine on its own terms. Now I don't want to be condescending, but Red Sauce Italian is not one of the world's great cuisines. It's modest, homey: the creation of immigrants accommodating themselves to the new conditions of a new continent. Making it fancy, to me, makes it worse.

Nobody can accuse Colandrea New Corner, on the marches of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, of being fancy. This is almost the definition of a neighborhood place. If you could see where it is, you'd see how unlikely it is that any auslanders would ever come upon it (except, of course, for the occasional chowhound). They don't make a big deal of the food or the service. But the food nails it. This is what I was looking for.

The emblematic dish here is the eggplant rollatini, served as an appetizer, but in a portion large enough to feed a family. It's not rolled in the traditional manner. You just get big eggplant steaks, topped with ricotta and tart/sweet red sauce. It's . . . it's . . . ineffable (at least if this is the flavor of your childhood coming back to you). The baked clams are similarly good -- and believe me, that's a dish I've have more bad versions of than I'd like to think of.

My main dish -- soft shell crabs two ways -- was only a little less good. The Milanese preparation was aces: fried crispy without a hint of grease. The Francese was dicier: by the time you finished it, it got too gloppy. Nothing to be done about that, I suppose.

Our server could not have been sweeter or more attentive if she was one of our sisters (although it must be noted that she was well acquainted with one of our party).

Social stuff counts, and I have to admit that I ate at New Corner with some of my very favorite people to eat with. But come to think of it, they're the same people I went to Parkside with, and I didn't like that half as much.

Please let me be clear. This isn't like Rocco's Calamari, the Sicilian seafood place in Boro Park, Brooklyn. That's objectively excellent food that I'd recommend to anyone. This is different. If you didn't grow up loving this kind of food, I'm not going to tell you to start eating it now. If you did, though, THIS is what you loved.

If it weren't for that pesky Green-Wood Cemetery, New Corner would be a straight hour-and-a-half walk from my apartment. As it is, it's a little more complicated (although it's not far from the N, which in Brooklyn is the most express of express trains). I don't care. Now that I've found it, I'll be back.
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#2 Steve R.

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 12:18 PM

Just to add my 2cents to Sneak's post...

First of all, we went on a Friday at 7:30 and, when we left at almost 10pm, we just about closed the place down. There were already folks leaving when we entered. It's a big place with 4 separate areas, so it can be somewhat deceptive. But there werent many tables still eating (some locals drinking at the bar) when we packed up. On a weekday, get there by 6:30 (7 at the latest).

And, if you think that you can upscale your experience by flashing some money and ordering the high end wines, forgeddaboutit. There is no high end of the list... yes, you can probably get them to charge you more to make you feel better (I mean, they ARE local Brooklynites after all and we can all see a mark coming), but you might as well stick to the Berringer "Reserve" Pinot Noir for $27/bottle. It complements the food well.

The food: I always order the eggplant rollatini which, at $8.95, gave 5 of us enough of a taste. Funny story: one of us, maybe Peg or Ginny, asked where the ricotta came from (very creamy and flavorful). On Court St, this would have gotten a response that identified a local Italian grocery that makes their own. Here, the waitress came back with the brand name & which supermarket carries it. That's the extent of their local "sourcing". The baked clams are as they should be (not from the Gowanus) and the cold antipasto and stuffed artichoke were okay, with nothing to write home about but nothing to avoid either. A good start with warm local bread.

Sneak never got a taste of my lasagna, otherwise he would have put it up there with the eggplant. Simple preparation, lots of pieces of meat, nice cheese, firm pasta sheets and a solid red sauce. Big portion. Old New York. Ginny's veal cacciatore (?) was not anything resembling a dish I had seen before. Over nice pasta, in with the red sauce, were many, many chunks of veal and pieces of fresh mushrooms. A veal stew over pasta. She didnt like it, I wouldnt order it again (or highly recommend it either), but its the kind of thing that I'm sure folks like and the quality was good for what it was. The fried softshells that Sneak and Rich had were greaseless and tasty, the other kind was "ehh". Cant remember what Peg had.

Annisette bottle (Mr.Boston of course) put on the table with the espressos. No dessert. Four bottles of wine among the 5 of us. Leftovers. $60pp, with an oversized tip. Queen is better food, this is local Brooklyn as it was. Mostly families that go out to eat as an exception.

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#3 Sneakeater

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 01:08 PM

I did STARE at your lasagna.
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#4 juuceman

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 03:12 PM

Just to add my 2cents to Sneak's post...
Queen is better food, this is local Brooklyn as it was.


Thanks, this is what I was going to ask for clarification of. How does it compare to Marco Polo, Sam's or Bamonte?

#5 Rich

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 03:16 PM

Just to add one more thought - the soft shells Francese style got way too soggy, but this was the first time that happened in about five times I ordered the plate.

I noticed there was a lot more sauce on the dish than normal maybe that was it - or the pan wasn't hot enough, thus causing the crab to "take in" too much moisture.

If anyone goes ask for Sam (waitress). She's very pleasant and helps make the experience even more fun - and we had a great time and a lot of laughs - very nice evening in Dyker Heights. What more could anyone ask?

#6 Rich

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 03:18 PM


Just to add my 2cents to Sneak's post...
Queen is better food, this is local Brooklyn as it was.


Thanks, this is what I was going to ask for clarification of. How does it compare to Marco Polo, Sam's or Bamonte?

It's much better than Marco Polo and Bamonte - never been to Sam's. Queen is better, but NC's food is more old-style Italian Red.

#7 Sneakeater

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 03:20 PM

I was last (and first) at Sam's in the 1980s, but New Corner struck me as better.

Certainly much better than Marco Polo as well (but a different kind of restaurant).
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#8 Steve R.

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Posted 02 August 2010 - 07:12 PM


Just to add my 2cents to Sneak's post...
Queen is better food, this is local Brooklyn as it was.


Thanks, this is what I was going to ask for clarification of. How does it compare to Marco Polo, Sam's or Bamonte?


I'm not as sure as Sneak and Rich on the answer to this question. I havent been to Sam's in 10 years or more and I dont remember the food being any good at all. Several friends have told me to try it again but I dont believe them. Is it edible (except for the pizza)? Bamonte's I'm sure of... I think it sucks and you can see my opinion after Daniel's write up. That's how Sneak wound up wanting to go to N.Corners... I mentioned it as a much better alternative to Bamonte's. Marco Polo is completely different... more like Queen or Manducatis or Piccolo Venezia. It was not as good as any of those up to a couple of years ago but, when his son opened the Enotecca next door, I wound up going there several times and liking it a lot. And of course his son starting telling me to try M.Polo again as its better now. I havent done so but it may well be.

Bottom line is that New Corners is not a destination place but if you have a car and a yen for old Bklyn style red sauce food, it nails some things perfectly and at a good price point to boot. Much better than L&B Spumoni Garden as well in my opinion (but no pizza).

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#9 Sneakeater

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Posted 04 May 2012 - 06:23 PM

Brooks of Sheffield gives this wonderful place the "Who Goes There?" treatment.

(Although I have to say this isn't the kind of place where you ever wonder who goes there. It's pretty obvious.)
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#10 Sneakeater

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:13 PM

A revisit to this place was clearly called for in light of Carbone.

Why do I like Colandrea New Corner so much more than more than such highly regarded places as Park Side and Manducatis? I think it's because the pretensions toward good food that those places have -- people actually consider them to be good restaurants and discuss them as such -- always make me expect more than I get at them. Whereas Colandrea so obviously is only what is: a very high-performing neighborhood "Red Sauce" place, where you just dig in and enjoy a favorite kind of food done well for a change.

I started, as I and everyone always does, with the eggplant rolatini. And here's Colandrea on a plate: this dish is not exquisite in any way. No one will exclaim over how fine or well-made it is. It's just absolutely delicious. And that isn't inevitable: even fans of this dish must admit that, out there in the non-Colandrea world, it's pretty bad more often than it's very good. Here, it doesn't come sitting in a pool of grease or (even worse) water. The sauce is tangy. The cheese -- sourced from only the finest nearby supermarket -- is smooth. The eggplant isn't overly cooked. Everything is fine with the world.

I then went on to the linguini with clam sauce. I asked to mix red and white sauce -- and, after a brief show of resistance, they complied. (In Old Skool "Red Sauce" places, they always comply in the end.) Again, not too watery, plenty of garlic: just right.

Things went off-boil with my secondo. Now maybe a four-mile walk in humid 80-degree weather, followed by a rushed wolfdown of dim sum, followed by a three-and-a-half-hour opera in an un-air conditioned church school auditorium, isn't the perfect appetite-builder. But my veal scallopini pizzaiola was a little hard to take. The veal itself, while hardly superb, was not bad -- very far from the sad stringy messes you get in lower-level "red sauce" places. The sauce, though, was tangy to a fault. Rich will never talk to me again, but I thought a little butter would have had a welcome mellowing effect.

And now comes the inevitable comment: this did not begin to approach the beautifully modulated flavor feast that is Carbone's octopus pizzaiola.

Of course, this dinner cost a pre-tax total of something like $60 -- less than a third than I've ever spent at Carbone. But that isn't really the point.

Trendy Village spots notwithstanding, Colandrea New Corner remains a wonderful place, my very favorite of its kind, that warrants visits from anyone who either likes this kind of food or is curious about it. (I don't believe it will convince any of the latter, however.)

Three notes:

1. They have no idea what to do with solo diners. You could see it as soon as I walked in. Here's a clue for them (not that I can imagine their reading this): solo diners want quicker service. Not slower. Don't feel like you're interrupting us. Bring us our food. Bring us our check. We're not just trying to kill time to keep us out of our lonely pathetic apartments.

2. This place was jammed when I got there at 6:45 on a Sunday. There was even a question whether they could find me a table. It started emptying around 7:30. It was completely empty when I left around an hour later.

3. This is my problem, but I found it pretty unpleasant to be surrounded by the clientele here. It was too much like moving back in with my family. This is what I moved to Brooklyn these many decades ago to escape.

But these are my problems -- and my social insecurities. Not yours. And certainly not theirs.
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#11 Steve R.

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:32 PM

Great summary.  Just about exactly right except that I've never had a less than excellent eggplant rolatini there and I order it every time I go (every 3 months or so... we're actually taking another couple there a week from Thurs).  Always go early if you want to catch the after school early family dinners and the "we dont go to Florida... we eat our early bird specials right here in Bklyn" geriatric set.  I've yet to play the Keno games on the hanging TV screens in the main dining room.  Order the lasagna if you want another fresh cheese delivery system in large quantities.

 

Here's the real issue with a solo diner (for them): everything is served in quantities that serve 3.  Yes, I eat the eggplant rolatini myself but I give out generous tastes.  It's an app. portion for 3 and a large main course by itself ($11?).  Even the salads are huge.  No way one person orders 3 courses and doesnt take home dinner for the next 2 nights.  So, the price per person per dinner is, in reality, even less than the above.

 

The negative on this place is that I really do think that there are several I-A red sauce joints serving better quality food and that New Corners is bested by a bunch of places standing between it and Carbone.  But you got that right too.  I like this place.  I go here when I dont need the better prepared food that Park Side or Queen or... serves.  I go here when I want inexpensive tasty I-A food, a couple of notches over what Wo Hop did for me for years.


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#12 Sneakeater

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:36 PM

Sorry, I must not have been clear. I've never had less than a great eggplant rolatini here, either.

What I meant was, I've had less than great ones elsewhere. (Oh God, have I.) This simple-seeming dish isn't surefire, out there in the non-Colandrea world.

I have to have that lasagna some day.
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#13 Lex

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:36 PM

... there are several I-A red sauce joints serving better quality food and that New Corners is bested by a bunch of places standing between it and Carbone.

 

Serious question.  Which ones?  I may wind up trying them.


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#14 Steve R.

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:40 PM

 

... there are several I-A red sauce joints serving better quality food and that New Corners is bested by a bunch of places standing between it and Carbone.

 

Serious question.  Which ones?  I may wind up trying them.

 

You're not hanging on my every word again, are you?!  Park Side & Queen, as I stated in my next to last sentence  :blush:    Park Side is my favorite hands down.  


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#15 Sneakeater

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Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:42 PM

I struggle in both this write-up and my initial one at the top of the thread with why I like Colandrea more than Park Side. (Cuz obviously it's so important.)

I hope the projected July 14 Park Side outing happens.
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