Photos courtesy Susie Jetta
Jun 22, 2021
A Dinner Party kicks off in Fort Greene
Soft-launched during the pandemic, the new S. Portland restaurant Dinner Party is currently offering California-inspired picnic boxes
When Pequeña, a tiny and beloved Mexican restaurant in Fort Greene closed during the pandemic, the neighborhood wondered what would take its place. Then, several months ago, a group of young women began renovating the shuttered shop. They painted the façade, hauled antique furniture through the front door, and hung art on the walls. Soon, a handwritten note appeared in the window.
Hey neighbors! I’m Cami, I live on Washington Park, and I’m the new proprietress of this storied little space. This is my first restaurant, and I’m still struggling to believe my luck.
This past Thursday, the restaurant, Dinner Party—which is currently serving take-out picnic boxes ($16) in advance of a hard-opening by Labor Day—already seemed to be meshing with the neighborhood. The owner and head chef, Cami Jetta, 25, drifted between the kitchen’s whitewashed saloon doors and unfurnished dining room, chatting with a steady trickle of patrons and local residents. “I popped over after seeing the place on Instagram,” said one woman after placing an order. “What a fun addition to the neighborhood!”
Jetta is part of a small wave of Brooklynites who decided to found a restaurant in 2021. The mini spate of openings even led to a recent headline in The City, which declared that Brooklyn is “…Poised to Overtake Manhattan as the City’s Food Capital.” Like others in this ambitious cohort, the pandemic shuffled Jetta’s priorities — she quit her job as a fundraiser for the Natural History Museum to start the restaurant after a round of friends-and-family fundraising, realizing a dream she planned to tackle later in life. “The pandemic just kind of turned my thinking inside out,” she says.
At Dinner Party, the prix fixe menu changes every week, a conceit inspired by Jetta’s admiration of Alice Waters, the founder of California’s Chez Panisse. While studying history as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, Jetta would cook lavish, multi-course dinner parties for friends in her small apartment. “We would get dressed up really nice, but we would eat on the floor, and everybody got one plate,” she says. “The dinners got progressively more ambitious.”
When I picked up a picnic box to eat at nearby Fort Greene Park, the contents — triangles of warm sourdough pita, chunks of marinated feta, a crisp shirazi salad, roasted eggplant, beet hummus, Muhammara, baklava shortbread, quartered mission figs and a hunk of juicy chicken for an extra $6.50 — were refreshing, colorful, and smacked of summer.
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“On a basic level, the weather and time of year informs everything that I make,” says Jetta. “I also love the idea of thematic cooking, and of evoking certain feelings with my food.”
While Jetta and her all-female team are still working on the renovation (tables coming soon!), the vibe inside already recalls a mellow, lived-in apartment. The walls are painted a soft yellow; antique chandeliers hang at different heights; the wall art includes architectural sketches of Notre Dame, watercolor nudes, and a framed recipe for chocolate mousse. When it’s complete, Jetta plans to host three seatings a night, at 5, 7, and 9pm, where patrons will gather at communal tables.
“Our whole thing is to encourage experiential and community dining, and hopefully you meet someone you didn’t come to dinner with” she says. “But yeah, the idea is, like, it’s literally a dinner party.”
Dinner Party is open 12:30-8:30pm, Tuesday through Sunday.
86 S Portland Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, 11217
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