In an industry where most restaurants fail within the first five years, Marco Polo Ristorante in Carroll Gardens has clearly made its mark. This June, restaurateur Joseph Chirico and his son, Chef/Owner Marco Chirico, will celebrate the 30th anniversary of their restaurant.
The secret of their longevity is their family history and passion for Italian cuisine and hospitality. In 1983, Joseph opened Marco Polo Ristorante, named after the Venetian explorer. He broke new ground by introducing fine Italian dining to Carroll Gardens—and was one of the pioneers in Italian cuisine, offering previously undiscovered ingredients such as bufala mozzarella imported from Italy, porcini mushrooms, and truffles. In 2009, Joseph expanded the family business with the casual pizzeria Enoteca on Court (recommended by the Michelin guidebook) helmed by Marco, graduate of the Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, where he studied both culinary arts and restaurant management.
This past fall, in preparation for the next generation, they renovated the dining room with a new interior design and a new menu. The subdued dining room now has a very modern feel, with cream-colored walls, distressed wood floors, and black and white photographs of Venice—and the restaurant is thriving. To honor the anniversary, they will be hosting several events, including a dinner that will feature original 1983 recipes side by side with Marco’s modern interpretations of classic Italian dishes.
The herbs and vegetables the family grows at their upstate farm will also make an appearance later this year, as the seasons change and more produce becomes available. The new antipasti and salads for spring and summer are light and fresh—perfect for warmer weather. For starters, there’s polipo, grilled fresh octopus with cantaloupe in salmoriglio sauce, a Southern Italian marinade with lemon and herbs. Or delicate carpaccio di manzo, one of Marco’s modern preparations, features thinly sliced raw filet mignon, fresh artichokes, topped with sliced fresh Parmigiano and a touch of basil-olive oil paste, accompanied by peperonata jam (red and yellow bell peppers, capers, vinegar, fresh herbs), and the equally inventive tempura di ostriche, lightly batter dipped and fried oysters over cucumber “noodles” (raw julienned cucumber salad) with avocado sauce. And to show off the local heirloom tomatoes, there’s a panzanella salad, in which toasty chunks of bread are tossed with fresh heirloom tomatoes, toasted pignoli, with wonderfully light and delicious baked ricotta.
This spring and summer, diners will find 30 additional seats in the fresh air in front of the restaurant on Court Street.
Marco and his team have created a new cocktail list, bringing the talent of the kitchen to the bar with house made syrups, fresh squeezed juices, purees, and local herbs from the family’s garden.