Per the basic rules of Bay Ridge’s dining scene as we’ve frequently outlined them, a local outpost of Zito’s seemed a sure bet for success—selling throwback Italian heroes made with Faicco’s sausage and chickpea panelle, and run by a couple of good old boys from the neighborhood.
Yet it too has proved a casualty of 7604 Third Avenue, following would-be trailblazers like Aloha Grinds before it—an ahead of its time challenge to strongholds like Starbucks, featuring French pressed Kona blend coffee and haphazard stacks of board games. But of all upstart businesses, hoping to plant their flag on Bay Ridge’s notoriously capricious Restaurant Row, Smorgasburg’s Bon Chovie might just be the unlikeliest of all, specializing, as it does, in a single, acquired-taste foodstuff—head-to-tail deep-fried anchovies.
“When we started running an additional stand in Coney Island this last summer, it got pretty stressful shuttling ingredients back and forth from opposite sides of Brooklyn,” explains owner Renae Holland of the initial impetus for her brick-and-mortar, slated to open in October. “The Zito’s guys already had a bunch of vendors doing commissary out of their basement, but had been struggling a bit getting business going upstairs. And as it’s really hard to get the capital together to run a restaurant, we struck a deal that the owner would stay on as my partner, while continuing to do deliveries and catering out of the space as Zito’s. It’s a pretty cool way to join forces and do our things together.”
While Holland currently resides in Red Hook, it helps that she can actually claim a certain amount of Bay Ridge cred, having initially settled in the neighborhood immediately upon moving to NYC. She’s also wisely elected to hedge her bets just a tad with the menu, expanding well beyond her namesake Dirty Jersey-style chovies, with lobster rolls, grilled mahi mahi fish tacos, crabby mac and cheese, and kale caesar with grilled shrimp (she’ll also have a beer and wine license, allowing her to serve her virgin “Sambora” sangria with an actual hit of booze).
“The anchovies will still be there, but it won’t just be a greasy fish shack,” promises Holland. “Although I totally get that it’s still a gamble for Bay Ridge… people will either really love it, or who knows.”
7604 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge