He wants you to chow down and chat up.
A Bensonhurst resident who’s been baking Italian treats since he was a boy opened up a pizzeria on 71st Street in Bay Ridge last month with the hope of bringing families together over his classic Italian pies. The owner of Lombardo’s of Bay Ridge said his eatery is different from others in the nabe because wife Joanna convinced him to fill it with board games instead of televisions, in order to encourage the lost art of conversation.
“We don’t have a television. We don’t want to hear people on their phones, we want to hear people speaking,” said Emanuele Lombardo. “[My wife] said, ‘no television, let’s put out board games and let people enjoy.’ It’s casual — I want people to feel like they’re home.”
The restaurant — which also boasts a brick oven and the Lombardo family’s collection of Italian antiques — serves pizzas, calzones, salads, and paninis, all made from ingredients imported from Italy, according to Lombardo.
The pizzas are topped with traditional Italian ingredients: the “bianca” features ricotta, garlic, and mozzarella; the “quattro stagioni” — or “four seasons” — includes prosciutto, portabello mushrooms, artichoke hearts, olives, and mozzarella; and the “prosciutto di parma and arugula” has shaved Sardo cheese, mozzarella, and its eponymous meat and greens.
The paninis, too, are mostly filled with classic combinations of meat and vegetables: the grilled chicken with mozzarella, roasted peppers, arugula and balsamic vinaigrette; the smoked salmon with goat cheese, red onion, arugula, and honey Dijon mustard; and the tuna with red onions, tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil.
Lombardo said the straightforward menu was inspired by his own upbringing — and his distaste for hipsters’ inventive restaurant orders.
“I cringe when someone asks for pineapple or kale on pizza — we didn’t grow up like that,” he said. “Whatever fresh vegetables were in the fridge, that’s what we had on the pizza.”
But local faddy foodies can still chow down on a few dishes that also keep Lombardo’s Italian conscious clear. There’s the vegan pie — made with dairy-free cheese — the veggie-filled antipasti dishes, or any of the five classic side salads. And carnivores and herbivores alike can finish off their meals with any of the three homemade desserts: cannoli, cheesecake, or the Nutella pie.
The eatery will soon debut live music, outdoor seating, and “bring your own bottle” service, once the city approves permits for the latter two, Lombardo said. But for now, diners can challenge their dates to classic board games such as Trouble, Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, Clue, and Yahtzee.
Lombardo spent most of his adult life working in the restaurant business, with a short foray into baking. He owned Tuttobene’s Pizza in Greenpoint and then worked at Cammareri’s Bakery in Bensonhurst. But his culinary journey began when he was 10-years-old, when his grandfather dragged him in to work at his uncle’s Gravesend bakery, on W. Sixth Street and Avenue U, after he ruined a $150 pair of Reebok sneakers only an hour after his mother bought them, he said.
But the punishment quickly became a privilege. He baked his first wedding cake when he was 14, Lombardo said, and opened his first pizza shop on Flatlands Avenue in Canarsie within a decade.
Now, his own kids — 7-year-old Santino and 3-year-old GianCarlo — share his love for pizza, and know to leave their electronics behind when they visit Dad’s new restaurant.
“We try to promote talking — we want people to come in and have a great time,” Lombardo said. “I want a family atmosphere.”
Lombardo’s of Bay Ridge [279 71st Street between Ridge Boulevard and Third Avenue in Bay Ridge, (718) 238–7100.] Open Tues.–Wed., 5–11 pm; Thurs.–Fri., 5 pm–midnight; Sat., noon–midnight; Sun., noon–9 pm.