Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NY

18th Avenue in Brooklyn. New York's Bensonhurst neighborhood, is also known as "Christoforo Colombo Boulevard," named in honor of the Italian explorer, and is the major shopping avenue in the area.

Most of the homes in Besonhurst are multi family dwellings, and the predominant style are two family semi-attached brick homes. as you can in the photos above and below.

At one time the population was predominantly Italian, and Besonhurst was known as Brooklyn's "Little Italy." The stores on 18th Avenue were also predominantly Italian based in nature, with pastry and bread shops, pork stores, pizzerias, cafes, regional and calcio (soccer) social clubs, ceramic and food specialty stores galore.

As you can see by the photo above many still exist, and I took you to the wonderful new Villebate -Alba Italian Bakery, also located on 18th Ave in a prior post.

But, as time moves on and the Italians who immigrated here during the last century assimilate and move away to other areas of New York and the United States, new ethnic groups are beginning to arrive in Bensonhust, such as Chinese, Russian and Latino, and many are opening their own stores, as you can see in the photos below.

It has been mostly a peaceful transition for this neighborhood, and I believe it is one of the wonderful things about the borough of Brooklyn, as it has traditionally acted as a portal for many immigrants who come to live and work in New York. They bring their hopes and dreams for a better life and work hard to make those dreams come true.
An interesting article in the New York Times about the changing demographics in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn can be read at this link.

One of the interesting stores on 18 Avenue is S.A.S. Italian Records. Inc , located at 7113. A family run business, they travel to Italy several times a year to hand pick Italian specialty items for their store.

You can click on to enlarge the photos to get a better look at the items in the store's front windows.

In addition to Italian music CD's and cassettes and Italian movie DVDS, they stock many specialty items for Italian food preparation such as food mills, pizelle cookie presses, pasta machines, espresso pots, plus some recreational and some humorous items.

Inside, these are the Italian music Cd's and cassette tapes, and Italian DVDs available for purchase on one side of the store. You can listen to samples of some of the Cd's on their website.

While the other side of the store has displays of imported Italian culinary equipment and gadgets, ceramic plates and bowls, soccer jerseys, some toiletry items, etc.

They sell many styles and types and sizes of espresso pots. Above are classic Neapolitan "flip drip"stove top espresso pots.

G.A.T. Stainless Steel Espresso stove top pots

Bialetti "Moka Express" stove top espresso makers.

They also offer a nice a assortment of beautiful imported espresso coffee serving sets. The cups are demi sized.

Can you guess what the item is in the center of the photo below?

It is a large electric tomato crusher used for making tomato puree! I own a similar smaller hand cranked model, because at one time we used to make and preserve our own fresh tomato sauce. We would buy bushels of plum tomatoes and blanch them to remove the skins, de-seed and puree them in the machine, then boil the puree and place it in bell jars to preserve the sauce to use it to make tomato sauce during the year. It was a big job, as we would make hundreds of jars of sauce at a time, but the effort was worth it, as there is nothing more flavorful in taste than sauce made with fresh tomatoes.

I haven't made it since my children have grown up and left home, as they enjoyed helping to make the sauce, but someday when my husband retires I'd like to do it again as a project we can do together with a few friends. I still have all my bell jars packed away and waiting.

Some of the decorative Italian ceramics that line the walls.

As luck would have it they did not have an item I went into the store to buy, but I enjoyed browsing at all the different items they did have, and I did end up buying a pasta serving bowl and a vegetable mill. I'm sure that I will think of other things I'll need now that I saw them!

It may be changing, but there is still quite a bit Italian flavor to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and I hope that if you visit the borough you take some time to explore and enjoy all it has to offer.


Ciao Chow Linda said...

Oh Pat - I really MUST come to Brooklyn and visit all those stores. How about lunch?

Joyce said...

That was a fun tour. I had to laugh at the large tomato crusher:) We had one but not nearly that large:)

imjacobsmom said...

Thanks for the tour like the others said, it was fun! I would love to stroll through those shops. ~ Robyn

Jojo said...

That was such a nice tour and I especially enjoyed the shopping! The best part is that it didn't cost a thing.

Happy weekend!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the tour very much. Thank you!

I'd love to stop in the bakery and even though I'm not a coffee drinker, I'd love to buy the coffee serving sets. ;-)


Lisa's RetroStyle said...

I love the what looks like a little I guess crepe maker in one of the windows. Such a pretty design!

Unknown said...

Hi Pat,
Love this tour...the homes are so pretty!

Looks like it would be a fun place to browse!


Catherine said...

What a treasure! Thank you again for a great tour.


steviewren said...

I've never heard of a tomato crusher, but I can see how it would be useful. Thanks for taking me along on your shopping trip.

black eyed susans kitchen said...

Wonderful tour, Pat. Like you said, things change. When we were on our way to a Mets game last year, we drove through the old neighborhood where my father had his bakery. I only recognized the el. Everything else had changed. There wasn't a single store remaining that was there when I was a kid. Glad that I still have the snapshots in my head.
♥, Susan

Anna said...

What an interesting post! I liked your words about immigrants' dreams. I also have a tomato crusher. Can you speak Italian?

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

What a wonderful place to live. There is so much variety in Brooklyn! I love expresso...and I love Italy - we really enjoyed our trip there last year.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting my porch! I am glad you like it. If you are ever in the neighborhood, I would love to have you visit - I would save you a place in the shade.

aliceinparis said...

Love your armchair tours:)
I can't believe you made all that sauce. It must have taken ages!!

Just A Girl said...

Hi Pat,
Whenever I hear the name Bensonhurst it always reminds me of General Hospital the soap opera. There was a girl from Bensonhurst and I just can't remember her name. Funny the things we remember :)
It must be so much fun preparing and anticipating your little Leo's arrival. Are they staying long?
I can't wait to see new pictures!

xoxo Cori

Unseen India Tours said...

Fantastic Location !!What A Great Blog You Have!! Really Fascinating..

Tracy said...

Oh, this is great... And I've been loving catching up on all the tastes of Italy in NY you've been sharing,'s like a buffet loaded with goodies coming here! Happy weekend, my friend :o) ((HUGS))

Rhonda Hartis Smith said...

You have me convinced to forget Manhattan and go to Brooklyn. What an interesting place, maybe you can give me a tour the next time I'm in NYC (except I need to come up in warmer weather than February).

The Quintessential Magpie said...

What a fun post, Pat! I'm ready to hop on that train and come north to visit Brooklyn! I love how NYC is so many cities in one!


Sheila :-)

Tara said...


Everything I read you write about jogs a memory. My great Uncle Louis owned a speakeasy in Bensonhurst before the war! Haha!

Anonymous said...

First time here. Lovely Blog, Lovely Music!Picture tours are so much fun. Thanks.

Brenda said...

Another lovely tour, Pat. (Makes me want to move to Brooklyn!)

RoeH said...

Neat post and tour. I want that little colorful carriage with the horse and cute people that was in the window.

Rob said...

I love my little octagon shaped Bialetto espresso pot. Reminds me I need to make some pizzelles - anise flavored of course.

Laura @ the shorehouse. said...

"Hundreds of jars at a time..." Oh MY! The Daring Kitchen has nothing on you. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing such an interesting place Pat. I am catching up with people who have left comments after having a busy week. Thanks for popping in on me.

Leaning into destiny... said...

Nice to feel the love for a neighborhood and a people who strive for a better community. My book about my many years and continued association with Bensonhurst tries to reflect this love for community, country, and more. Called: I'd Much Rather Laugh/Preferisco Ridire was mostly written while in Sicily and waxing nostalgic about home.