10/03/16 10:35am
fidanza saltie

Caroline Fidanza stands in front of Saltie, her seven-year-old sandwich shop on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg. Photo: Georgia Kral

In a neighborhood like Williamsburg, which has arguably experienced more change than any other part of Brooklyn in the past 10 years, finding the familiar can feel like slipping into a snug sweater you thought would never fit again. On one corner, where there was once a modest building there is now an elaborate Whole Foods Market. Across the street, where lines used to form for bagels, people now wait for the latest iPhone, while tapping at their current iPhone.

But just four short blocks east on a busy stretch of Metropolitan Avenue sits a sandwich shop that looks and feels the same as it did when it opened seven years ago.

That place is Saltie, a compact “farm to table” eatery that makes sandwiches loaded with Mediterranean flavors with names like the Scuttlebutt and the Spanish Armada. It’s a neighborhood spot that, according to owner and chef Caroline Fidanza, has thrived in Williamsburg by not changing even as many things around it did.

“We have just tried to continue to be who we are and distinguish ourselves in that way,” she said, in a reflective conversation over unsweetened iced tea on a recent unseasonably warm September day. Fidanza is committed to her craft and business at a time where the restaurant industry, and customer tastes, are changing as much as Brooklyn itself.

“When we opened, it was all about sustainability. People would come in and ask ‘where did you get your eggs from?’ Because they cared, they wanted to know. Now, nobody ever, ever, ever asks anymore.”

We spoke at Saltie, which can seat maybe 10 people comfortably and has famously uncomfortable stools for just four diners. Over the course of 90 minutes, as we chatted about her desire for both change and stability, and about her views on current restaurant trends, more than half the customers chatted with Fidanza as if they’d known her for years, and indeed many of them likely had. (more…)

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08/11/16 10:44am
Rooftop Films started showing movies at Industry City in 2015. Photo: Ethan Judelson

Rooftop Films started showing movies at Industry City in 2015. Photo: Ethan Judelson

It all started with a few flyers, a bed sheet and a rooftop.

In the summer of 1997, Mark Elijah Rosenberg founded Rooftop Films on the top of his East Village apartment building. He and a few friends, he said, “used a 16mm projector, tied a sheet to the wall, opened the door to the roof, and we had a film festival.” The turnout to see the collection of short films that Rosenberg had selected for the evening, driven mostly by word of mouth, was much larger than expected–so many people showed up that Rosenberg’s landlord promptly evicted him.

Even without a rooftop of his own, the film-obsessed recent Vassar grad and native New Yorker realized that he was hooked on curating screenings. It was, he recalled in a phone interview, “a real pleasure to watch strangers come and appreciate the night.”

Fortunately Rosenberg had friends to turn to. Joshua Breitbart and Dan Nuxoll, current Rooftop Films program director, were working to convert an old warehouse space on McKibben Street on the border of Bushwick and East Williamsburg into lofts. They allowed Rosenberg and Breitbart to build a screen and show films on their roof.

“There were no hipster restaurants let alone Michelin restaurants,” Rosenberg said wryly. “It was derelict buildings and car fires…for better or worse we were part of the change in that neighborhood.” (more…)