Friday, January 21, 2011

Is Legendary Monte's Venetian Room Getting A Make-Over?






Monte's Venetian Room, the Gowanus restaurant steeped in legend and lore, quietly closed its doors in 2008, after a hundred years in business at 451 Carroll Street between Third Avenue and Nevins Street. It was rumored that the place was going to be renovated, but nothing of the kind ever happened. Dust slowly accumulated on the bar, banquettes and tables. Instead, in May 2010, Marshal's Legal Possession notice was posted on the premise's window. It was an order to vacate the ground floor commercial space as well as the parking lot next door.

For the last few weeks, however, there have been signs of life at the once famous eatery. As a reader informed me, there has been work going on at the location. There is a big dumpster in the parking lot and paper has been taped over the restaurant's windows.

If indeed, the once famous eatery will reopen its doors in the near future, that would be great news. After all, the place is legendary. First opened in 1906 by the Montemarano Family, the restaurant has been part of Brooklyn history ever since. Once the playground of Sammy Davis Jr. and other members of the Rat Pack, the place had lost much of its luster in the last few decades. Sure, the red banquets and huge mural of Venice were still the same, but the interior, along with the staff and the food, had grown tired over the years.

Last owned by Toni Monti, the eatery turned out Chef Luis Chuia's rather unimpressive veal saltimbocca or marsala and chicken parmesan. His Italian cheesecake continued to be famous outside of the neighborhood, though.

In my twenty-five years in the neighborhood, I ate at Monte's only once, about six years ago. By then, it was clear that its hey days were long over. If I remember right, my friends and I were the only ones in the place on a Saturday evening. Choosing a dish from the extensive menu was frustrating since the kitchen seemed to be out of almost everything. After the rather sorry meal, the elderly waiter with the lovely South Brooklyn accent handed us the dessert menu, but prefaced by saying that the only thing available was the cheesecake.
"It's the best Italian cheesecake in Brooklyn" he told us.

Here is a brief history of Monte's Venetian Room by Lyn Stallworth and Rod Kennedy, Jr. from their wonderful 1991 The Brooklyn Cookbook:
Nick Montemarano's father and mother, Angelo and Filomena, opened their no-frills, home-style Angelo's Tavern in 1906. Nick was born in 1916, in the family apartment upstairs. Nick and his brothers, Rocco, Vincent, Michael, Peter, Angelo, and Joseph, worked in the tavern as they were growing up.
When the boys came back from the service after the war, Angelo's Tavern got a massive facelift and became Monte's Venetian Room, the landmark of South Brooklyn. Despite the name, most of the cooking is solidly Neapolitan.



Anonymous said...

I agree with what you said about the food but it was damn good cheesecake.

Anonymous said...

I had an opportunity or two to eat there about 35 years ago. I remember the food was excellent and the ambiance just wonderful! It was a real treat. Kathleen

Anonymous said...

My family ate here for over 50 years. Grandparents came every Sunday night till they died.
I agree the food went downhill, but the cheesecake of course remained the best.
It would be nice if they re-opened and re-vamped the food and chef!