Friday, December 25, 2009

Goodfella’s: a delicious and good time for all

By Marshall Slater

Goodfella’s has been a staple in Bay Ridge for many years, consistently serving crowd pleasing cuisine in very charming surroundings all wrapped up in a family friendly and good times atmosphere. I am pleased to say that little has changed in all these respects now that the restaurant is well into its second decade.

And before we get started on the specifics, it should be first understood that while there are many Goodfella’s restaurants, this location long ago took its own road, maintaining the name but taking off in other varied directions, including culinary, making it very much a one-of-a-kind establishment, able to cater to its Brooklyn clientele in a most personalized manner.

Owned and operated by brother and sister partners Michele and Darren Carbone, one is always on premises to make sure customers are consistently happy. It is easy to see that this is a real favorite for regulars and newbies. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming; the portions abundant, the menu far and wide ranging, plus there are lots of other enticements to keep you coming back.

Each night brings a prodigious array of specials augmenting the already diverse bill of fare. On a recent evening, the blackboard menu tempted the palate with stuffed filet of sole, pork chops with vinegar and cherry peppers, campagnolo Carbone, fresh salmon served any style you desire, steak pizzaiola, veal chop with mushrooms and onions or done parmigiana. But at Goodfella’s, everyone seems to have their favorites, be it one of their award winning brick oven pizzas — which have been named best in the land more than once — the traditional Italian favorites or the specialty entrees.

The meal starts with some of the best homemade bread you are likely to enjoy; as thick and as good as cake dough. But while the desire is to consume all that reaches your table, have a little discipline so you can leave more room for the meal.

The Antipasto Paesano is a good place to start, made up of all the starters you love: first rate, wonderfully fresh veggies are grilled (eggplant and zucchini) or roasted (sweet peppers), and complimented with a smooth and satisfying virgin olive oil and balsamic dressing, and chunks of fresh garlic and light spices. Add in the fresh mozzarella wheels atop tomatoes and under basil and you have a delectable way to begin the meal. Or there is its kissing cousin of the hot antipasto sampler consisting of excellent baked clams, mushroom oreganata, snappy jumbo shrimp gently battered and tender eggplant. Cheese is also the main ingredient in the decadent mozzarella en carrozza, in which the milky cheese is lightly battered and then fried, finished with a thick red sauce studded with more garlic.

Other options to begin your visit include the Famous Goodfella’s Buffalo Style Chicken Wings available in mild, medium and (very, very) hot; popcorn shrimp, a spinach and artichoke dip, bruschetta, tender and crisp fried calamari, chicken fingers, stuffed artichoke Zuppa di Clams or Mussels in red or white sauce, and probably more than a dozen others.

But choice is one of the main ingredients in everything at Goodfella’s. A good case in point is the option for the very popular Family Style Dinner, which serves couples, foursomes or parties of 50. It is a price fixed feast, which allows you an exceptional array of choices for one low price of $23.95. For this tab you get your choice of four appetizers (the best of the regular menu), two pastas, three entrees (veal, chicken, seafood; again, some of the most popular choices from the main menu), plus dessert and beverage. This menu is not only available for dinner patrons, but can be further enhanced for those planning a party.

Want even more of a bargain? Then come for the four course Early Bird Dinner Menu, which is featured Monday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. and priced at just $18.95.Add in such amenities as free valet parking, karaoke on Saturday night and live bands on Fridays and you soon realize why Goodfella’s is known for good times.

Of course, if you find yourself in the neighborhood during midday, they offer both $7.95 and $9.95 complete lunch specials Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.But for now, let’s head back to the dining room and see what else entices. Of course, Goodfella’s is very well known and even more respected for its old world style pizzas, available as either individual four slice pies, a six slice square pie or as the more typical eight slice variety. All specialty pies are made with hand sliced fresh mozzarella and all pizzas are baked in the brick oven. Customize the pie with any of a dozen and a half options or, better yet, opt for one of their wonderful specialty creations like the Pizza alla Vodka — voted the number one pizza in the country two years running and made of their coveted tomato cream vodka sauce, seasoned with fresh mushrooms, peas and prosciutto. Smokin Goodfella, named The World’s Best Pizza at the International Pizza Festival in 2007, consists of smoked fresh mozzarella, roasted pepper cream sauce, fresh sausage, wood roasted peppers all topped with Pecorino Romano cheeses and fresh basil.

Other choices include the venerable Mushroom Madness constructed with a porcini cream mushroom sauce topped with freshly seasoned and sliced mushrooms and imported Pecorino Romano cheese. There is also the Vegetable Delight, the house namesake “Goodfella” (plum tomato sauce, topped with brick oven roasted peppers, sausage and fresh sliced garlic), an Eggplant Parmigiana pizza, Chicken Parmigiana, Quattro Stagioni (literally “four seasons”) made with plum tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, artichoke hearts, black olives, prosciutto and fresh, seasoned mushrooms and the close relative of the Quattro Formaggi, their interpretation of the four cheese creation, with fresh mozzarella, provolone, fontina and grated Pecorino Romano cheese topped with that plum tomato sauce. But these only begin the long list.

Of course, pastas are also a featured item on the menu, such as the Penne alla Vodka, with its sweet background taste gained from the echoes of the vodka, which is burned off during the cooking process. It’s a light cream sauce confection with peas and a touch of tomato. The exceptionally light and tasty potato gnocchi dumplings are presented in a superb fresh pesto sauce. There are at least another dozen variations on this theme, some traditional and some not so…like the Linguine Sinatra with the macaroni sautéed in garlic and oil with chopped shrimp and clams and a drop of tomato for a pink blush and a nice counter taste.As for the entrees, veal, chicken and seafood are given equal attention and all the classics are represented. The Chicken Siciliano offers alternating layers of prosciutto, mozzarella and eggplant; the succulent veal saltimbocca is made with excellent prosciutto in a wine sauce. The Chicken Scarpariello is offered on the bone with tons of fresh garlic and a zingy sauce to lap up with the bread.

From Veal Parmigiana and Sorrentino to Pizzaiola and Bolognese, you can see the old favorites are very much still in style at Goodfella’s along with house creations such as the Chicken Ambrosiano (breast sautéed in garlic and wine with capers, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and sun-dried tomatoes served over penne) and the Chicken Goodfella’s with tender chunks of breast sautéed with scallions, shallots, garlic, white wine and cream over penne pasta or the Chicken Contadina also served on the bone sautéed in garlic and lemon with sausage and oven roasted peppers.

Shrimp Romulus offers baby shrimp sautéed in a delicate lobster cream sauce with angel hair pasta; there is Calamari Marinara or Fra Diavolo, jumbo shrimp done Francese, Oreganato and Parmigiana, fresh fish and combinations like the Chicken and Shrimp Rustica, which matches a grilled chicken breast with shrimp, roasted peppers, mushrooms, shallots, garlic and cream with a touch of tomato over penne.

Desserts are no mere accommodation to the end of the meal; instead, they offer a sweet shop array of temptations like the apple pizza pie ala mode, which starts with a base of pizza dough then adds thin slices of fresh apples and cinnamon crumb topping, topped off with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate syrup. Beyond this innovation is a bakery case filled with everything from tirami su to Snickers pie, sorbets in their natural fruit shells to Reese’s pie, New York cheesecake to the Vesuvius pie, a combination of mousse, cheesecake, brownie, caramel and nuts.

9606 Third Avenue, between 96th and 97th streets

Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday until 11:30 p.m.; Saturday until midnight and Sunday, 12:30-10 p.m.

Free valet parking nightly after 5 p.m., seven nights.

Most major credit cards are accepted.

Early Bird Special (choice of appetizer, soup or salad, entrée and pasta plus dessert) price fixed at $18.95 is available Monday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. For details on the Family Style Menu available at all times, see the body of the story above.

There is karaoke with Vinny Karaoke and DJ every Saturday, 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Friday night features live bands from 9 p.m. to midnight.

Private parties up to 130 are accommodated. Outside catering is a specialty.

There is free delivery for several miles, from Bensonhurst to Bay Ridge and Sunset Park.


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