Old Neighborhood Charm

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Boozy weekend brunches followed by afternoon shopping that rolled right into evening cocktails are a Prosecco soaked memory of life before kids. But, a leisurely family style day spent noshing and shopping—with a playground stop—can still be had in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. The Italian specialty stores, handsome church (where local Al Capone was wed) and generations-owned family businesses in this once predominately Italian-American enclave now mingle with up-and-coming restaurants and trendy boutiques. And, while some storefronts and residents may have changed over the years, the friendly, tight knit old neighborhood feel remains.

photo credit: Adele Godfrey 

Brooklyn’s third oldest park, Carroll Park, is the ultimate neighborhood hang. With picnic benches, two playgrounds, sprinklers in the summer, bocce courts, basketball courts and a baseball diamond, there’s plenty to keep kids of all ages amused. Plus, check out the rockin’ Kids Concert Series in summer.

photo credit: Adele Godfrey

Rainy days call for an art project at the Painted Pot. Studio drop in fee is $8 and then you have your choice of bare pottery—from frames to piggy banks—within an average range of $3-$30 per item.

Stop by Caputo’s Bake Shop (329 Court Street), a neighborhood staple that’s been baking rainbow cookies, biscotti, lard bread (stuffed with meat and cheese) and other Italian treats since 1904. Just up the block you’ll find more old-neighborhood charm and Italian specialty items (fresh mozzarella being spun on-site) at Caputo’s Fine Foods (460 Court Street).

                                                                                                                                                          photo courtesy of Carolyn Morris

Take a step back in time at The Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, a restored 1920s pharmacy serving throw-back delights like frothy egg creams, real sodas, massive sundaes, egg salad and grilled cheese sandwiches. Check their calendar for live music performances too.

The shelves at Court Street Grocers ––stocked with everything from pickled carrots to imported red sauce resemble a dream pantry, and their gourmet deli sandwiches are the stuff of a dream picnic. Tuck-in to house made pastas, savory crostini and addictive meatballs at the homey Frankie’s Spuntino.

The charming Buttermilk Channel (the name pays homage to a mile-long tidal strait between Brooklyn and Governors Island) caters to diners great and small with their refined take on American bistro dining and a super–sweet kids menu. Still have room for more? David Chang is in the house  ––well, his pork buns anyway, along with his crack (ha) pastry chef, Christina Tossi’s crack pie, cereal milk soft serve and cake truffles at the Momofuku Milk Bar outpost.

For a real Brooklyn souvenir, pop into By Brooklyn where Gaia DiLoreto has scouted the best of artisan goods—from chutney to ceramics—for her borough proud shop. Shop (or sell) maternity and kids clothes at the chic Madison Rose a designer new and re-sale clothing shop—ask about their house label Super Stretch Skinny Jeans. Area Kids stocks all the must-have gear, clothes and collection of wooden and educational toys for infants on up to kids age 10. Soula Shoes opened by a former Barneys buyer and dad is a one-stop shop for cool shoes (Camper, Frye, Paul Smith, Hunter) for the whole family.

Get there: The F and G lines stop at Carroll Street (Smith and 9th is another option, but that stop is under construction until fall 2012).

The zone: The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway on the west, and the Gowanus Expressway on the south, Smith Street on the east and Degraw on the north.

— Laura House