Colandrea New Corner
7201 8th Avenue, Dyker Heights
Colandrea New Corner is a poster child for restaurant longevity. Family-owned and -operated for over 78 years now, the Dyker Heights stalwart is generally counted amongst Brooklyn’s seminal red sauce palaces, all of which are apparently oblivious to, or just entirely disinterested in, changing times or trends. Of course, hip, nostalgia-plumbing establishments like Carbone would have you believe that red sauce is having a moment, waitstaff donning their maroon tuxedo jackets with a wink and a nod, in order to charge $54 for veal marsala and $15 for broccoli rabe. But why pay such a premium for playacting in Greenwich Village, when you can have the real thing for a song in southwest Brooklyn?
At Colandrea, those selfsame jackets are worn entirely without irony, fostering an air of deferential formality underscored by starched tablecloths, padded chairs and heavy oil paintings resting in gilded frames (and then charmingly counteracted by mounted televisions silently broadcasting the day’s winning lotto numbers and an easy-listening soundtrack of 90s soft rock, featuring Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” and REO Speedwagon’s “Keep on Lovin’ You.”) And the most you’ll pay for a single dish is $33.75 (Lobster Tails Fra Diavolo) but why bother, when there’s also a “Dinner Special” menu ($26.95 for four courses), a “Fish Fridays” menu ($29 for four courses), and a unquestionably agreeable “Feel Good Thursdays” menu, offering seven generously portioned courses plus a full glass of wine for a wallet happy $31?
Since we were fortunate enough to dine on a Thursday, we couldn’t resist the cut-priced feast. But—full disclosure here—the food itself is really hardly worth mentioning, ranging from merely edible (an overdressed Caesar salad), to reasonably enjoyable (a sweet sauce-smothered veal pizzaiola), to pretty good (a quartet of buttery, lemony baked clams). Though our friend Paulie Gee would surely give extra credit for the old-school foil packets of ice cold butter paired with hunks of seeded Italian bread, as we certainly will for the tiny cups of strong, lemon peel-garnished espresso, accompanied by full, pour-it-yourself bottles of licorice-y anisette.
But the thing that assuredly keeps places like Colandrea New Corner humming along is an overriding emphasis on hospitality, something that’s increasingly sorely lacking at newer restaurants nowadays (including holier-than-thou places like Carbone). It starts with that fleet of nattily dressed, eager-to-please servers—when ours caught our companion picking at our dishes (generally discouraged with set menus, or all-you-can-eat promotions), he sweetly asked if he should start bringing extra empty plates, in order to facilitate sharing. And it continues with the owners (founder Vincenzo Colandrea’s grandsons), who make a point of frequently touching base with each patron, effectively making us feel like regulars, though we were doubtless the only unfamiliar faces in the room.
So in truth, Dyker Heights’ Italian-American residents could simply stay home for dinner, if all they were after was killer eggplant rollatini and rustic gnocchi bolognese. But for those who attach equal value to engagingly solicitous service, generations of Brooklynites can attest to this fact: Few do it better than Colandrea New Corner.