In this place history resides. (Courtesy brooklynheightsblogspot)
I recall The Long Island Restaurant with fondness. It was one door down from my apartment building in Brooklyn Heights. Emma Sullivan, its proprietor, was (and is) a friend. She and her husband, Buddy, took it over in 1956 from her father, Ramon Montero, who had opened the welcoming place in 1951.
The couple ran it for many years, raising a family and nourishing thousands of people over the decades with food and drink, lovingly overseeing a quiet, steady mainstay. She closed it in 2007 — Buddy had passed away in 1977 — and a special part of Brooklyn Heights was gone.
Gone, but not forgotten. I met Emma in 2004, and when I first walked across the threshold of her establishment, a few days after I moved into the neighborhood, I knew I was in a good place. She introduced me to her cousins Maruja and Pepita, and their mother — they had moved to New York from Galicia — and offered up a frittata, a delicious one with onions and sausage. We sat at a table in the back of the time-capsule space and drank white wine and talked about Brooklyn and food and politics. The frittata was light in texture and rich in taste, just what we needed on that October evening. We drank some Albariño, and the night passed.
I enjoyed many more meals and drinks in the company of Emma and her cousins, and think of them often. Thirty minutes spent in their company is a tonic. They are a large part of the soul of that neighborhood, rare wonders.
I visited with Emma in November of 2016, when I was last in Brooklyn. The cousins were there as well, in the brownstone on Henry Street, where they all reside, a two-minute walk from the bar. (Their mother passed away several years ago, in her mid-90s.) It was a brief visit, but I cherish it.
I’ll see Emma again, and when I do, I will cook for her. I’ll cook a frittata with bacon and cheese. We’ll sit and talk. Her smile will warm me.
If you are looking for an evocative meal that is simple to prepare and can be lovingly made in a relaxed way, this frittata should be on your list. It’s based on my moments spent with Emma’s family, and Mark Bittman’s approach in The New York Times. Serve it with a green salad, some crisp, warm bread, a bottle from Rioja, and friends.
5 slices slab bacon, chopped coarsely
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, chopped
Gorgonzola cheese (1/4 cup, more or less, crumbled)
Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup grated)
extra-virgin olive oil
In a cast-iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until its fat begins to render, but before the bacon crisps. Stir, then add leeks and stir again; turn heat to low. Cook until the leeks begin to soften. Crack eggs into a glass bowl and beat gently; add a touch of black pepper. Pour eggs into skillet, then sprinkle 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano on top of the mixture.
Here is where you must make a decision: You can put the skillet in the oven under a broiler set on low, or continue to cook the frittata on low on the flame or element (do not stir). Either way, do not overcook; the frittata should jiggle slightly when the pan is moved.
Remove skillet from heat and crumble the Gorgonzola evenly over the top of the eggs. Bring dish to the table, pour the wine, pass the bread, and, in about five minutes, when the cheese has sensually oozed over the eggs, cut and serve the frittata.
Postscript: Emma leased the space to Joel Tompkins and Toby Cecchini in 2013; they re-opened it, and its bar and booths again welcome people to sit awhile. The name is the same — it couldn’t be otherwise — and when you find yourself in Brooklyn, make sure you spend some time there. Take your place at the bar, order a cocktail, and ask about Emma. You’ll be in a spot that deserves to last for eternity.