As the clock clicked towards midnight on December 31st, only a handful of ardent regulars knew they were counting down the last minutes of service at Petit Oven. A fiercely beloved yet altogether surprising success story, Bay Ridge’s sole, local-seasonal, French-inspired boîte enjoyed a nine-year run in its 30-seat space off of 3rd Avenue—even though it opened in a time when a multi-generation tenure and spaghetti menu were the only things that guaranteed an audience.
Petit is also one of the exceedingly rare spots we’ve openly claimed as a personal favorite; the closest thing we’ve ever had to a go-to restaurant. Though our food writing profession has generally directed us far beyond Bay Ridge, it’s where we invariably chose to dine, off the clock, for pure pleasure; our pick for celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, or Wednesdays. And it’s clear it served that purpose for the neighborhood too, managing the elusive hat trick of positioning itself as special occasion place—with its immaculate crudos, foie gras flourishes and small but thoughtful wine list—at a price point that actually permitted everyday dining, from $25 three-course prix fixes, to $19 all-you-can-eat wild mussels and frites.
We frequently fact-checked our admiration on industry associates as well. Was Petit Oven truly something special, or were we simply biased by a bit of hometown affection? Time and again, our compatriots emphatically agreed: the plucky eatery had je ne sais quoi. The fact that it was a two-woman operation contributed greatly to its appeal: Kat Ploszaj was a boss in the kitchen—knocking out endless orders of duck confit, sole mueniere and salty caramel sauced bread pudding, with no more than a dish washer for company—while Nicole Guarino affably governed front-of-house, regaling patrons with her brand of dry, frequently scandalous humor, which was much more fuggedaboutit New York than fine dining French.
And while the increasingly universal laundry list of factors contributed to the closure, it’s a small comfort the duo was able to leave on a high note, knowing that they managed to personally connect with every last one of their customers, and keep all 30 of their tightly-packed tables filled to the end.
A goodbye message from Kat and Nicole: “Working in a small place was a great stepping stone, because it basically gave us an education on how everything works in the business. The bottom line is we outgrew it, but we are grateful for the support of our neighbors—without them, we wouldn’t have been as successful as we were. We look forward to the next chapter of our lives.”