Neighborhood Expert: Marie Brown of Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens



Marie Brown shows off her favorite Carroll Gardens goodies. She was born in the neighborhood and moved back in 2005 after a 25-year hiatus. Photo: Gabriele Sierra

Though we’re fans (and publishers) of neighborhood guides and lists of where to eat right now, we also recognize that they tend to follow trends and overlook neighborhood gems. To that end, we’ve started a new series called Neighborhood Expert in which we chat with a longtime local for the scoop on their favorite spots and their take on how the area has changed. 

Name: Marie Brown

Neighborhood: Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill

How long have you lived here? Well I was born in this neighborhood 1951 in Long Island hospital. I left the year I got married which was in 1980; it was too expensive already. When the kids were in college I had a conversation with my husband and said, “Would it ever be possible to come back downtown?” and he said, “Yeah, I think we can do this.” So we started on my quest to find a house in this area. We came back in 2005, so it has been another ten years.

What was it like growing up in Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens? When I grew up here we lived in what is now Cobble Hill, but it was not called Cobble Hill or Carroll Gardens–the divisions were by parishes. There was Sacred Heart parish, which is now Carroll Gardens, and I was in Saint Paul’s parish, which is now Cobble Hill. Each area had a different demographic because Saint Paul’s parish was mostly Puerto Rican and Sacred Heart was all Italian.

The new residents are afraid to get mass quantities; they order one or two cookies. When they order I always think they mean one or two pounds of cookies.

To be honest the Sacred Heart people had a little attitude about Saint Paul’s people–they felt they were purer or more secluded since there were only two kinds of Italian people in this area. I am one of each. My mother is Carini [originally from Carini, Sicily] and my father is Barese [originally from Apulia–the heel of the boot], those are the two types of Italian you still see here. The Barase social club still exists here, they still have the procession of the Barase patron Madonna, and Saint Paul is still an active parish, they still have processions in the street as well. The church was our main connection and social activity; the children went to the church schools.

Do you have any specific memories that stand out? Of course! The apartment I grew up in was across the street from the school–I remember being in my classroom and watching my mother hang clothes from the line, she worked in the neighborhood, she worked on “the machine” which meant she was a seamstress. If we got out of school early we would have to go to the shop and wait for her to finish. The building where we grew up is still there, my father could have bought it for $12,000 but he thought,”Who would want to live in Brooklyn?”

What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday or Sunday in the neighborhood? Well I like to walk to the market, do a little browsing. I like the farmers markets that they have here. In the summer there are always concerts or book signings we will go to.

What is your favorite restaurant in the area? We love Enoteca on Court. We start with a pizza, we like the margarita, and I get the Enoteca flatbread, it has pomegranate seeds, arugula and fig. They also have wine flights for a very reasonable price. I like that place a lot.

Best brunch? La Petit Cafe, I love the garden, it is really big and has a fountain and lots of plants. I’ll take my mother there, my daughter. The coffee is great too. I also like Café Luluc for the food and coffee, the mimosas–but you have to go early otherwise there is a long wait.

Best bakery? Well it depends what you need.

For cookies you have to go to Court Pastry. My mother’s picture is in there on the wall because she was the maid of honor at the first wedding that Court Pastry ever provided the pastries for. I’ve never bought their pastries though, we only buy their cookies. There is always a big argument because everyone has his or her favorites so you have to get a huge variety.  My mother likes the fig, I love the chocolate drops. The new residents are afraid to get mass quantities; they order one or two cookies. When they order I always think they mean one or two pounds of cookies.

For bread–and this is a big argument in my house–I like Caputos. But I also like Mazzola’s bread. It is a matter of taste. Like for lard bread I like Caputos–Mazzola’s has a little too much pepper. We are very fortunate to have these two bakeries still in operation. Best fresh goods and produce? Caputos Fine Foods make fresh pasta and ravioli and they also make fresh mozzarella. In the whole world they make the best mozzarella. They also have good pesto. It is expensive but I buy it. Also good olives and prosciutto.

G Esposito and Sons is great for meats. But they charge you whatever they feel like, you never get a receipt and they don’t take cards–it is cash only. It all depends on who you get and that is what you pay. The prices are always round, they round it up. I get a little perturbed because, wow, $45 for some meat and a couple of sausage links? I am considering just getting my meats and stuff from Whole Foods or Fairway. I am in meat transition right now. But if you go to Esposito their sausage is very good, their chicken rollatini, the cold cuts are very good, oh and their prosciutto balls.

For fruits and veggies I’ll go to K & Y Fruit and Vegetable, a stand on Court Street. They have good prices and they have everything.

What about a good cup of coffee? D’Amico Coffee Roasters has the best coffee in the world, whether you are buying beans or coffee to go. They just redid it and it looks very nice. They have always been there, it is a family business. Some of the new people in the neighborhood were bitching and moaning about the roaster smell from the grinding process, you may have read about it, so they had to change things to accommodate for that.

Best place to pick up a bottle of wine? I like Carroll Gardens Wines and Liquors, they have a big selection and good prices, they aren’t hoity-toity like some of the others in the area.

Any local parks or museums or activities? Carroll Park is nice; they do Shakespeare in the summer and films for the kids. There is also a bocce court there but you need a key. The older Italian men used to do it a lot. We walk through the park a lot in the summer; it is very crowded all the time. I like that there is a book store within walking distance. BookCourt is really wonderful, they have authors come speak and give readings; they also have a very good selection and a very friendly staff. We brought a friend from out of town there; it is a great spot to bring people. Although I was pissed the last time I went someone had a dog in there, I do not like that. For movies we go to Cobble Hill Cinemas, it used to be called The Lido. That theater has been around for a million years. It is nice to have a theater you can walk to in the neighborhood.

Anything you wish the neighborhood would have that it doesn’t? A ravioli factory? No, but there are too many banks and real estate agencies, but I guess someone is using them. A household goods store, maybe, all the little hardware stores have closed up.

I never thought I’d be living in Carroll Gardens and who would have ever thought it would be okay to live south of Smith Street? But I think the neighborhood is great I’m so glad we are here and we aren’t going anywhere.

10 Responses

  1. Kelsey kleiman -

    I really enjoyed reading this! Great idea for a
    Series. I look forward to reading more.


  2. Billy -

    No offense to this woman, because she has a personal connection to the shop, but Court Pastry is not very good at all.

    • Rebecca -

      I was born & raised in CG, and have to argue that Court Pastry is amazing. My family has been loyal customers since the 70’s and everyone we have introduced it to has just gone nuts. Your opinion is certainly not in the majority. I’m sure the lines out the door at holiday times are proof 🙂
      Loved this piece; please bring on more neighborhood stories from those that have truly lived there! Enjoyed hearing the history and her insider thoughts.

  3. Diane S. -

    We lived on Union Street for 15 years in all until just a few years ago, so these are great stories to hear. One of our landlords’ grandmothers bought that brownstone in 1964 for $4000. Stories like that are always so great! I was reading a novel, SOMEONE by Alice McDermott, and I began to realize the neighborhood she was writing about was Carroll Gardens! The novel started in the 1930s though and the neighborhood was very Irish then apparently.

  4. Jennifer Jacobs -

    So, if Court Street Pastry is good for cookies and not pastry…. where should we go for the best Italian pastries?

  5. DeeDee -

    Nice! These are all my favorite places in the neighborhood too. This woman is very wise. I go the other way on lard bread though. Mazzola for life!

  6. Dawn Cardi -

    Marie and her husband are wonderful neighbors and very active for the third street block association. People like Marie make this neighborhood special. Just realized that Marie and I were both born at Long Island College in 1951 A good year thanks Marie for being such a good neighbor.

  7. Jody Reiss -

    Don’t forget – Park Slope, Greenpoint, Carrol Gardens and all the other trendy neighborhoods are just a small fraction of the borough of Brooklyn. Don’t forget about the other 3/4 of the borough!

    • Diane -

      Yes, so true! We live “deeper” in Brooklyn now, still renting, and have a pretty good deal on a very large apartment with outdoor space that we wouldn’t have been able to afford in Carroll Gardens. We’re also finding great restaurants like the Turkish Taci’s Beyti in Midwood. People should do themselves a favor and explore more of Brooklyn.


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