Yesterday’s recovery walk took us to Fortunato Brothers bakery, one of the handful of old-school Italian holdouts near Williamsburg’s Graham Avenue. Their pignoli cookies and tarts are out of this world, and it has become my go-to place for gelato in warmer months. Something like $1.75 for a small—with two flavors—makes it one of the city’s top sweet steals. I get a kick out of the clientele sitting at the small café tables, too, and the girls behind the counter—all those hardcore Brooklyn-Italian accents; it’s like walking into a time capsule.
Every year at Christmas time, Fortunato Brothers gives over a section of the floor to a giant display of hand-shaped marzipan treats, everything from adorable peaches with sugary fuzz to faux pizza and squid. It’s worth a trip just to see—the abundance is truly breaktaking. How many hundreds of hours did it take to make all that? It calls forth images of elderly Italian ladies hunched over a kitchen counter, pinching off hunks of marzipan, rolling them carefully, adding dimples and ridges, and carefully painting each one with food coloring.
We picked out a small assortment of fruits, plus a head of garlic because it was so darn cute and realistic, and brought them home. Ain’t they purdy?
Unfortunately, when it comes to eating the almond paste goodies, that’s where the pleasure ends. Anticipating a new taste sensation, we cut open one of the cherries and ate a little. The dough is extremely sweet, with only a mild almond flavor, and the outer edge was a bit crusty from sitting out on display. Definitely a treat for the eyes, but for the stomach, meh. Not so much. We’ll leave the remaining fruits pristine, on display in a bowl.
This marzipan is the only thing I’ve had from Fortunato Brothers that I wouldn’t be thrilled to try again, so I’d still recommend the place highly. Go and visit the bakery, ooo and ahhh over the marzipan, buy some for decorations if you must. But when it comes to eating, enjoy the baked goods and the gelato, sip the espresso, and stay away from the faux food.
Fortunato Brothers bakery is located at 289 Manhattan Ave., at the corner of Devoe St., in Williamsburg.