Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hopeland: New Atlantic Avenue Eatery Is Homage To Two Italian Matriarchs

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Pietro Costa on the left and Roy Marino, right.
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The story behind HOPELAND, a new restaurant at 320 Atlantic Avenue, is as much about food as it is about the friendship of owners Pietro Costa and Roy Marino.  More importantly, it is a tribute to their respective mothers, who instilled in them a love of their shared heritage.
Seeing Costa and Marino standing at the restaurant's mahogany bar, speaking in the Italian dialect of their native Cilento in Southern Italy, one would presume that they have known each other for decades, but theirs is a rather recent camaraderie.
A few months ago, Pietro Costa, an artist and owner of Vespa Properties, was in the process of renovating the space after it was vacated by another eatery.  A prospective new tenant was chef and restaurateur Roy Marino, who most recently opened Broken English, a Roman style restaurant on Bergen Street for Italian investors. During the discussions with Marino, a friendship developed.

Not only did Costa and Marino live just blocks away from each other here in Brooklyn, they knew many of the same people. They also both came from the Cilento Coast, a portion of the Campania region of Southern Italy. Costa's family originated from Sant’Arsenio, a small 13th century town. Marino's family still lives in Sicignano Degli Alburni.  These two places are so close to each other that "it's almost like from here to Park Slope," Costa points out.
The two men quickly found that they shared a common love for the local cuisine of the Cilento region.   Sitting at one of the tables in the cosy restaurant, Costa tells me: "We started talking about our favorite meals,  going out to places that made our favorite Italian dishes, tasting them, taking notes, and talking about how we could make them better and why they would be better."

Both men had high food standards instilled by their mothers. "My mother is 81 years old and still picks olives.  My family still makes olive oil." Costa, who grew up on a farm, explains.
Marino's own culinary curiosity started in his mother's kitchen.  "My dream was to be able to cook the same dishes that my mother cooked for me when I was growing up.  Even when I was left by myself when I was a teenager, I never wanted to eat sandwiches.  I always liked to eat... always had that curiosity." At 16, he began working as a restaurant dishwasher during the summertime.  He worked his way up to bartender and waiter; "all the standard steps."  By 22, he opened his own restaurant with a friend in Italy.   {As a funny aside, he appeared in Stella Artois commercials for two years.}  About ten years ago, he found his way to New York via Spain. "Technically, I don't consider myself a chef because I don't have a culinary education.  It's more a culinary state of mind. I just remember things. That's why the dishes on our menu are called 'memories'.  We just recreate what is in our memory," Marino explains.
Those 'memories' include Baccala with potatoes, plump tomatoes and black olives,  Braized Rabbit, Frittelle, Fried Calamari and Oven Roasted Sardines.

"The overlaps [in our friendship] started to become very dense, almost like the Italian pastry, Sfogliatelle, which is made of many layers. And as you take the layers off, you discover depth both in likeness of character and vision. We were raised in the same culture, and we just clicked."  That's when the two decided to jointly open a restaurant.  Two-and-a half months ago, they shook hands on it and Hopeland was born.  Costa designed and built the interior, Marino was responsible for the kitchen and the menu, checking in with each other on a regular basis.

Hopeland's menu will change to increasingly include less known dishes like terrine. "Many people know what 'terrine' is, but we will make it the way it was done when we were growing up."
Luckily, both men paid attention when their mothers' cooked.  There are no recipes to refer back to.
"We have been trying to get our respective mothers to write down their recipes for us so we can use them," Costa smiles, "On my side, it's totally failed."  Marino chuckles, "On my side, it's failed too."  Costa continues, "I will ask my mother: 'How do you make this?'  and she will just tell me: 'Sit down and you will see.'" "It's literally a pinch of this, and a pinch of that."  With affection, Costa adds:
"This place is really about the tradition of our matriarchs, the women we grew up with and the tradition of growing and picking your own ingredients."

Make sure to check out Hopeland.  The restaurant seats 74 and is fully handicapped accessible.  There is a large table for families as well as an alcove area that can be reserved for larger groups.  A back garden
will be open in the spring.
Hopeland's wine list includes not only wines from Cilento, but also from France and Lebanon.  The owners are hoping to have a house wine available soon.
The eatery is open for dinner Monday through Sunday and for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.

Hopeland
320 Atlantic Avenue,
Boerum Hill
718-467-3526



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10 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think I am in LOVE with Pietro. What a face. Where have you been all my life? Good luck with Hopeland.

Anonymous said...

Right, a "small plate" at $15! I see which public they are after...

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to try this restaurant. Truly authentic Italian cooking is hard to come by. $15 for a small plate? If the food is the real deal and it's prepared authentically and without pretense, then I'll pay it for sure. There's too much slop out there that passes for gourmet food of any type, and sometimes that stuff is even more expensive than the really good food.

Anonymous said...

Atlantic Avenue has long been a tough strip for a restaurant and this is the third attempt in this site. I liked the first brick oven joint, Jolie was too expensive and up tight. Now they seem to think they can be hip by opening on Smith and saying that they are Mexican. But again they are too expensive and pretenious. Hopeland is very expensive for Brooklyn. The menu and design looks like the Bar Tano/Toto model but costs a lot more. There is a very basic design flaw with the bar butting up to the window and the beer pumps on the edge. Must have been an existing bar that should have been cut back.
It's too bad that Downtown is gone a place with good food and value and an original theme; it had a relaxed surburban. But the biggest loose is Bernards, it had everything right.
From the design,menu and prices I see no reason to go here but still good luck to them.

Anonymous said...

Listen, I'll try anything once, but I'm not very optimistic. Broken English was spun as being "Authentic Roman" food, but at the end of the day it was just overpriced and nothing special. As for the prices, the small plates here are $3 or more above Frankies- and that's not a cheap restaurant either.

Anonymous said...

I've been a couple times now since it has opened and the food is really delicious. It really is authentic italian food. I lived in Italy for a year and my favorite pasta was Lemon Parmesan-- Hopeland does a great job with theirs. The space is great, sleek and modern but homey at the same time and the bar is a fun place to hang out before dinner. Happy that something yummy has finally filled that spot.

Anonymous said...

The food was delicious! The Calamari was just the right texture, not too greasy and perfectly seasoned. My Mushroom Pasta was really good and cooked al dente, just the way I like it.

The service was also on point, something that isn't easy to come by, especially at a new restaurant.

I highly recommend giving it a try!

Anonymous said...

Ha! Thanks for the tip, Pietro. We'll try your restaurant...

Anonymous said...

I am still dreaming of the meyer lemon pasta I had at Hopeland last week! So yummy!

The service was good, and I really like what the owners have done with the space. Great addition to the neighborhood.

We will definitely go back!

CG Family since before St. Agnes said...

Even Casa Rosa doesn't have such high prices. And Red Rose...

Fugetaboutit - for the price of one of those entrees you can eat an entire meal at Red Rose.

The Real Deal... Casa Rosa & Red Rose have been serving the "Real Deal" to Carroll Gardens for over 80 years - combined.