New York is full of institutions: we have museums, hotels, and even department stores that have stood the test of time, and are now name brands known around the world. Bamonte’s, an Italian restaurant in Williamsburg that opened in 1900, might not be a globally-recognized icon, but it’s still an essential New York institution. If John D. Rockefeller has an oyster dish named after him, so should Pasquale Bamonte.
This red-sauce Italian spot has been in the same space in Williamsburg since the beginning of the last century. The dining room hasn’t been updated since the ’50s, and the space is still filled with tuxedo-wearing servers who bring family-style plates of baked ziti and pork chop parmesan to big tables of people. If you haven’t been part of one of those big tables of people, it’s time you made it into this classic establishment.
The fact that this place hasn’t changed at all - despite Williamsburg’s transformation around it - makes eating here that much more special. The space still has old phone booths, the walls are covered in pictures of the pope and signed portraits of celebrities, and the house bread comes with foil-wrapped butter packets. When your server opens the wine and fills your glass to the brim, you may have flashbacks to your first visit to the city - when you went into a spot in Little Italy with a street sign out front that said “Best Italian Food in New York”, and you ended up spending two hours eating mediocre cannolis and listening to the owner’s daughter sing "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'". But Bamonte’s isn’t sticking to its traditions as a gimmick. It’s just doing what it’s always done: be a welcoming place to share food covered mostly in cheese and tomato sauce with a group of people.
Besides the items that the old-school servers with bowties tell you they have “special for you tonight,” the long menu is a laundry list of Italian-American classics. Everything is served family style, and unless you’re carbo-loading for the Brooklyn Half, you’ll probably go home with leftovers. Definitely start with the cheese ravioli, which are massive housemade pockets of al dente pasta that ooze cheese as soon as you pierce them with your fork. For entrees, get the very big, very breaded, and very cheesy pork chop parmesan, and probably a bunch more pastas. When’s the last time you had a plate of baked ziti? It’s time to change that, at Bamonte’s.
Sure, you can find better Italian food - Lilia is around the corner - but you’re not at Bamonte’s to experience the food. If you let some under-seasoned pastas or over-sauced entrees ruin your night, you’re missing the point. You’re here to experience the place and the history. Nobody seems to have created Oysters Bamonte yet, but that deserves to change.
If you need a break from the barrage of cheese, red sauce, and breaded meat, bite into one of these spicy peppers. Keep an order on your table throughout dinner.
The clams are under thick strips of smoky bacon, so we’d recommend dipping the clams in the base of tomato sauce, and then eating the bacon separately. Sure, it’s basically ordering clams with a side of bacon, but we don’t see anything wrong with that.
This is the best pasta here. The huge al dente ravioli are loaded with soft cheese, which oozes out when you cut into them. Tell your server that you want enough so everyone can have their own. You won’t want to share this.
Everything here is very filling, and since we assume stomachs have limited capacity, don’t waste valuable space on this. There’s barely any prosciutto, and the pasta is bland and watery. Stick to pastas that go heavier on cheese and sauce, like the baked ziti or one with vodka sauce.
This bone-in pork chop comes in a pool of marinara sauce and melted mozzarella. Like with all of the entrees here, your server cuts it into equal parts tableside and gives everyone what seems like way too much food. Trust us - there is no such thing as too much of this.
The thin cuts of veal are fine, but this sauce has a thickness (and taste) somewhere between olive oil and Thanksgiving gravy. Unlike some other entrees here, you won’t be dipping bread in this after the veal is gone.
The penne vodka is a lot like your whole dinner here - it’s classic, very rich, and should be enjoyed by multiple hungry people. This needs to be on your table.