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Thirty-Year-Old Icon Marco Polo Ristorante Unveils its New Fall/Winter Menu

Marco Polo Ristorante, now in 2013.

Marco Polo Ristorante, now in 2013.

In an industry where most restaurants fail within the first five years, Marco Polo Ristorante in Carroll Gardens has clearly made its mark.  This past June, restaurateur Joseph Chirico and his son, Chef/Owner Marco Chirico, marked a milestone, celebrating the 30th anniversary of their restaurant.

The secret of their longevity is their family history and passion for Italian cuisine and hospitality.  In 1983, Joseph opened Marco Polo Ristorante, named after the Venetian explorer. He broke new ground by introducing fine Italian dining to Carroll Gardens—and was one of the pioneers in Italian cuisine, offering previously undiscovered ingredients such as bufala mozzarella imported from Italy, porcini mushrooms, and truffles.  He was also the owner and operator of the legendary Gage and Tollner on Fulton Street, in downtown Brooklyn.  In 2009, Joseph expanded the family business with the casual Italian tapas and wine bar Enoteca on Court (recommended by the Michelin guidebook)—also known for their brick-oven cooking and pizza—helmed by Marco, graduate of the prestigious Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he studied both culinary arts and restaurant management.
In preparation for the next generation, they renovated the dining room with a new interior design and new seasonal menus. The subdued dining room now has a very modern feel, with cream-colored walls, distressed wood floors, and black and white photographs of Venice—and the restaurant is thriving.
Marco Polo explores new territory without leaving its history behind. Marco and his father still honor their family heritage by making their own pastas, mozzarella cheese and sausage for the restaurant, which include the spicy, spreadable N’duja and hearty Calabrese sausages they have been serving at the restaurant for decades.  The new fall/winter menu, in the hands of Marco, features both new world creations (modern interpretations of Italian cuisine) and old world classics. Regulars will not be disappointed:  They continue to have access to the high-quality raw bar, favorite appetizers such as seafood salad, fresh pasta dishes including fettuccine al vine rosso tossed in a Parmesan wheel, and entrees such as rack of lamb.
The menu features new starters like Ricotta e Portobello, Portobello mushrooms baked with ricotta cheese, over smoked panzanella sauce, or Polipo, which Marco tweaks for the season with potatoes, scallions, celery, red onion, and cherry tomatoes.  A new seasonal soup, Zuppa di Zucca—pumpkin soup redolent of nutmeg and cloves, garnished with toasted pumpkin—joins other classics like Pasta e Fagioli and Minestrone.
House-made pastas embrace the season’s flavors and include Fettuccine Castagne e Noci, walnut and chestnut fettuccine mingled with radicchio and Gorgonzola sauce, or the Candele N’duja, whose long tube-shaped noodles cling to house-made N’duja and shaved Pecorino.  Risotto all’ Aragosta is a medley of fresh lobster, fava beans, green peas, arugula, and cherry tomatoes.  Also, don’t miss the Saturday Piatti del Giorno of cavatelli pasta with hearty wild boar ragu and shaved Pecorino.
Marco’s inspiration for fish and seafood dishes comes from his shopping trips at the Hunts Point fish market. His Filetto di Trota is a triumph, trout crusted with raisins, and orange and lemon zest, in dill Pernod sauce.  Gamberoni features generously sized marinated and grilled head-on prawns over natural black risotto.  Monkfish makes two appearances for the season: first in the Monkfish con Patate, sautéed with olives, capers, onions and potatoes in white wine, and second in the Thursday Piatti del Giorno, with fennel Pernod.
You’ll also find the original 1983 recipe rack of lamb, and an updated version of the bone-in rib eye, now prepared with a rosemary garlic rub.  Or there’s the Petto di Pollo con Pere, featuring tender chicken breast stuffed with pears and walnuts, touched with Gorgonzola sauce.
Marco will also introduce new seasonal cocktails, which will incorporate house made syrups, fresh squeezed juices, and purees.  One new cocktail already offered is the Pumpkin Eggnog Martini, a creamy, frothy sip spiked with Bacardi añejo dark rum, with fresh pumpkin juice and grated nutmeg.  Expect other cocktails, incorporating ingredients like pear and apple, soon.
For dessert, Marco and his team present Italian classics like Ricotta cheesecake, Zuppa Inglese, and Tiramisu, along with seasonal daily dessert specials like Torta di Noci, walnut cranberry cake with Godiva chocolate sauce.
The international wine list, featuring more than 240 predominately Italian wines carefully selected by Joseph Chirico—already recognized by the Wine Spectator—will continue to complement the cuisine. The private cellar features some incredible reserve wines including Far Niente, Bertani Amarone and Don Mechor Concha y Toro Private Reserve.
 
Guests can reward themselves after work with happy hour specials including two for one drinks (wine, beer and top-shelf spirits) and great value specials on raw bar ($1.50 oysters, $1 clams) small bites ($4 arancini—rice balls, $5 mozzarella in carrozza) and ($6 polpettine di vitello—veal meatballs).

Marco Polo Ristorante is located at 345 Court Street at the corner of Union Street, 718-852-5015, www.marcopoloristorante.com, and will be open Mon-Thurs, noon–11pm for lunch and dinner, Friday-Sat, noon–midnight, and Sunday 1pm–10 pm.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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