Old World Restaurant Attracts New World Crowd: Staying Power as the Neighborhood Shifts

Every generation brings about an amazing change in the world of food. No place is this more apparent than the restaurant scene. In the heart of Brooklyn, NY, is the injection of new blending with the juxtaposition of old-world order. Lingering old-time residents sit on stoops conversing and discussing the magnanimous changes underfoot, some in awe, some in utter disdain. Manbuns, electric scooters, and skateboards are plentiful as well as a plethora of avocado toast serving restaurants.

But tucked away on a little side street is Bamonte’s Restaurant.

What is so significant about this 120-year-old Italian eatery is that it has survived the generations and waves of change that have eradicated much of the old NY neighborhoods. When we walked in, with a reservation, and as we were to see was a necessity on a Friday night, it seemed rather sparse. Tables, close together as NY establishments tend to be, had but a few diners chatting away while turning forks in swirls of rich, red tomato sauce-topped spaghetti. Our conversation went from, how sad that a place like this was going to disappear due to the old-style residents moving out or dying out as the case may be, to utter surprise at how the new residents of Williamsburg (area of Brooklyn) filled the empty tables.

Bamonte’s is a real neighborhood restaurant. Hostesses and waitstaff knew the regulars, as was obvious with the arrival of platters of food that seemed to arrive unordered. What felt like a scene out of Jersey Boys (the 2014 movie about the Four Seasons), quickly turned into a sea of millennials. They crowded round the bar, and were ushered to their tables by waiters dressed in tuxedos with neatly coiffed hair.

What was Bamonte’s formula?

As we walked home past several other restaurants, many with empty tables, I thought about how wonderful it was to see the newness of the neighborhood taking shape.  I pondered what allowed Bamonte’s to remain.

The answer was clear — Bamonte’s knew who it was.

It never lost its way. As the world changed around it, it stayed true to its course of being a really good, white-table clothed, neighborhood gathering place. The menu had been updated from its original, of that I am sure, but it was incremental enough not to blatantly notice it happening, and it did not succumb to being something that it wasn’t. There were no sizzling plates, no avocados spread on toast (there are plenty of those around the corner, should it be what you crave), no Buddha Bowls. There was Chicken Marsala, perfectly olive oil and garlic coated green beans, and fresh Italian bread with butter.

Do you know who your restaurant is?

When you describe your restaurant to someone, what words do you use and do they match the vision of who and what you want your restaurant to be? Take a look around at some of the older establishments in your area and learn what has given them staying power. Did they revamp to meet the changing times, did they add on slowly and update, or do they look “stuck” to you? For some reason they are still there. Ask the owners, ask the patrons. There may be a nugget or two of knowledge that you can incorporate into your restaurant’s formula.

Answering the question of whom your restaurant is, can help to keep you afloat as the neighborhood and tastes change.


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