Take the belt parkway to the bay 8th Street exit. Turn right onto 14th Avenue. From here you’ll be driving alongside Dyker Beach Golf Course. As you near the intersection of Bath Avenue, look to your left and you’ll spot the park bench where I used to make out with my high school boyfriend, Matthew C. Two blocks down on your right, at the corner of 86th Street and 14th Avenue, is the spot where the “19th Hole” once stood. In its heyday, this cocktail lounge was home to guys with plenty of balls...just none of them used for golf.
Turn left onto 86th Street and make your way along this large thoroughfare. It’s sort of like the Champs Elysee of Dyker Heights. As you pass 11th Avenue, you’ll notice several modest semi-attached brick houses, one of which (#1031) belonged to a Profaci, not THE Profaci, but one of them. Turn right onto 10th Avenue and make your first right onto 85th Street. Venture three quarters of the way down the block and park your car, (watch out for alternate side of street parking!). On your right hand side, 5th house from the corner of 11th Avenue is my childhood home (awwwwww). Not having been designated a historic landmark yet (I can’t see why not!), it has been remodeled in true Brooklyn guinea style (lots of brickwork, lots of wrought iron), so that it is completely different from when I lived there! I can only wonder if, in the remodeling process, the secret basement wall compartment where I used to stash my empty beer cans was ever discovered.
After you’ve pictured me in your mind’s eye as an adorable, charming, vivacious child watching the wiseguys-in-training play “Johnny on the Pony,” turn your attention to the grand house on the corner, 8420 11th Avenue. This is the former home of Carmine “the Snake” Persico and his family. If you recall, in my first column, this was the stoop where I got flashed the summer I turned 16. (There ought to be a plaque or a bronze bracciole to mark the occasion).
Continue along 11th Avenue stopping at the very next corner of 84th Street. On your left you will see a magnificent home. I have absolutely NO idea who lives there, but chances are it’s a goombah. On the front lawn alone, I counted 7 statues! And the pillars out front rival those of Big Paulie’s Staten Island Whitehouse.
There must be a “keeping up with the Sopranos” kind of rivalry in the neighborhood. Not to be outdone by the “statue” house, two other homes on the left-hand corners of 83rd Street have matching fountains. And I’m not talking a tranquil little fountain in a backyard pond. These two fountains, done in pink marble (you CAN’T make this stuff up!), probably get more coins than Trevi!
To your right is the former home of Gambino capo, Anthony Scotto, at 8220 11th Avenue. No longer needing proximity to the Brooklyn waterfront, Anthony moved out to “Lawng” Island and became a restaurateur. His daughter Rosanna, now a New York City newscaster, was in my grade at St. Bernadette’s Grammar School, but as we were in different classes, we never did hang together. (Oh well, her loss)
The next block over, at 8102 11th Avenue, was the home of a one time Colombo consigliere and Carmine’s big brother, Alphonse C. Persico. Allie’s house pales in comparison to his baby brother’s. Blink and you’ll miss it!
Turn right and head towards 13th Avenue. At 83rd street, you’ll find the shrine church of St. Bernadette. Here is where I made my first Holy Communion, where I used to light the holy candles (and I never put my money in the little box). Here I said confession, bless me father for I have sinned, (it has been 30 years since my last confession) and where I could of sworn I saw angels painted on the ceiling above the altar (no hallucinogenic drugs).
NEED A BREAK?
Across the street from the church is the Tasty Pastry Shop, try it, the cannoli are good. After you’ve stuffed your face with cannoli cream, travel north along 13th Avenue. Here you’ll pass Sirico’s Catering hall, where the “boys” often celebrate family occasions such as christenings, engagements, sit-downs, etc. My cousin Carmela V. (she’s one of five cousins named Carmela) had her sweet 16 party here, not a noteworthy occasion except that I smoked my first cigarette there (a Parliament), stuffed into the girl’s room with Carmela and her sisters, Teresa and Donna.
Further down the avenue, between 74th and 75th Streets, was the site of the Wimpy Boys Social Club, a well-known Colombo hangout. A nail salon has unceremoniously replaced it.
When you get to 65th Street, make a left turn and you’ll find yourself in front of a beautiful church, Regina Pacis. Years ago, a jeweled chalice was stolen from the sanctuary. Old man Profaci, the founder of the Colombo Family, put word on the street that the chalice was to be returned. It was, and the thief washed up along the Jersey shore a few days later….well, parts of him anyway. While Profaci’s parish was St. Bernadette’s, his olive oil company was located near Regina Pacis and he often worshipped there, and donated quite a bit of money to the church, so much money in fact, that his face was painted in a mural on the chapel ceiling.
NEED ANOTHER BREAK?
Backtrack along 15th Avenue to 86th Street. Here you’ll find Tommaso’s restaurant, just a few doors away from the Veteran’s and Friends Social Club, this place was a favorite of the late Big Paulie Castellano (he should have of stuck with Italian food). ANYTHING here is incredible and Tommaso, the chef/owner has been known to entertain his guests with a few operatic arias.
On the same block is Mona Lisa bakery. Don’t leave without buying a crusty loaf of Brooklyn bread and a pound of pinioli cookies. Mona Lisa bakery even has a website you can visit (www.monalisabakery.com). They’ll ship assorted Italian cookies anywhere you tell them to. Unfortunately, the cannoli can’t make the trip due to packaging and shipping difficulties. But hey, maybe some sfogliatelle will survive the journey!
Your trip to this part of Brooklyn would not be complete without making a stop at the famous Alba pastry shop on 18th Avenue. You won’t be buying any more pastries since you’ve gotten your fill at the Mona Lisa bakery, but you mustn’t miss meeting the lovely Denise who works behind the counter here. She is friendly, courteous and has the most incredible Brooklyn guinea chick necklace that I have ever seen! “Denise, I love you, Anthony,” in gold (18 karat I bet!) encrusted in diamonds. Next birthday, Anthony is buying her a BMW! Anthony!!! Where were you when I lived there and do you have an older brother?
Copyright © 1999 PLR International