I finally made it over to Williamsburg to try Fortunato Brothers Café, which may be one of, if not the only, place of its kind left in the immediate area. It was in fact surprising that it was in Williamsburg, given the direction that Williamsburg has shifted towards in recent years. But rest assured there is a reason that Fortunato Brothers is still standing strong.
Situated on a residential area on the corner of Devoe Street and Manhattan Avenue, the building sticks out with their blue and white sign for all to see, and although I’m slightly colorblind, their roof was brighter than anyone’s on the block.
Once inside, the assortment of pastries and gelato was just as colorful. Even though I wanted to sample everything, I went to my default, the beloved cannoli. They have two sizes, small and large. I got a small this time, but I ate it in three bites. Definitely go for the large! But I also heard the employees talking about Italian cheesecake. That must definitely be on my plate the next time I come in. They also have other Italian pastries, such as cream puffs and lobster tails. You will not starve here, but you might gain a pound or few! The cappuccino was probably the best one I’ve had in my life: strong, yet flavorful with a lot of cinnamon and just the right touch of whipped cream. I wish I lived close enough to make this my regular breakfast spot!
The atmosphere of Fortunato Brothers was very calm. I was greeted right away by one of the employees, who promptly waited on me and was polite in brief conversation. I was fortunate enough to be there at a not so busy time though. They played Italian music, which added to the authenticity of the place. In the back, there was a large group of Italian men speaking Italian. I could have been in Italy!
It is easy to see throughout history how large and united the Italian community once was in New York. But in recent years, the transition of cultural authenticity to big real estate has left the once connected Italian community reeling with the loss of many Italian owned businesses in Little Italy and the recent eviction of lifetime Little Italy resident Adele Sarno by the Italian American Museum.
Let’s support the Italians who are left! The Italians stay! The cannolis stay!