It's been almost two years since substantial activity has gone on inside the rounded corner space that was most recently home to the restaurant Helios, at 82 Sixth Avenue. When I asked the owner what was going on back then, he told me that a beer bar would be moving into the space, but since then it's been mostly quiet.
Construction has been steady for about the past month, though, and last week signage went up for a new restaurant, to be called Purbird. I'm fairly certain that the owner this time around is the same as Helios, and a peek inside reveals several tables and a long bar. We'll see what develops.
Owner Peter Romano
This article was first published on Patch.
If you happen to be lucky enough to live in a brownstone, especially one that's been renovated within the past 35 years, take a look around and see if you can find any stained glass. There's a good chance that what you find might not be original, but a reproduction hand-made in the traditional style by master craftsman Peter Romano, who singlehandedly runs The Stained Glass Store, on Fifth Avenue between First and Second Streets.
"The most pride I get is when I walk back into a house I did 20 years ago and the current owners don't even realize that the stained glass came from me," he said. "If my work is done well, then you won't even know that I've done it."
Romano, who grew up on the Flatbush side of Prospect Park and attended Manual Training High School (now John Jay), was first introduced to stained glass not by exposure to the great churches of Europe, but by his cousin, who took it up as a craft and showed him the ropes as a youngster. He's nearly completely self taught, and opened up his first shop, on Sixth Avenue and Union Street, in 1976 (maternity shop Boing Boing is there now; ever wonder about its great stained glass entryway?).
The current location is the store's fourth; he moved into the space thirteen years ago "when Fifth Avenue was Dodge City," he said. Clients range from contractors to to architects to interior designers, and while he likes to work primarily for Park Slope brownstones, his work has been commissioned all over the country, and he's even created glass for homes in the Carribean and a Methodist church in Lagos, Nigeria.
The tools of the trade
Romano realizes that there aren't too many craftsmen around anymore, working with their hands. "It's a shame," he said. "With today's technology, everybody just sits around looking at screens all day. A lot of people do this as a hobby, but very few of us do it as a profession, and do it well."
So how does Romano go about crafting these stained glass windows? The same way it's been done for hundreds of years, using only the simplest of tools. "I start off with an idea, and then I draw a pattern," he elaborated. "I'll either use the lead came technique, which is used in the churches in Europe, or the copper foil method, which is what was used by Louis Comfort Tiffany." Essentially, large colored glass sheets are cut down by hand and soldered into the template (Wikipedia goes into much more detail). The end result is rarely short of spectacular.
Workshops like the Stained Glass Store are reminders that the finest products are the ones that are made by hand instead of by machines. And we should be thankful that Park Slope still has a couple workshops like the Stained Glass store, and a couple resident master craftsmen like Peter Romano.
Stained Glass Store, 300 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-768-7964.
Monday was a fantastically warm Memorial Day, so the only posts that went up were a profile of the great tattoo parlor/ art gallery The End is Near, as well as a few screenshots of The Gate on The Food Network the night before.
On Tuesday I noticed that Boardwalk Empire would be filming for the next couple days on Carroll Street. Anyone see any flappers milling about? Pizzatown also re-opened in the North Slope after a month-long renovation, and it's still as satisfying as ever, with a much improved layout.
Wednesday brought the release of Here's Park Slope 2.0, which will also feature lots of local deals and coupons (there are already a few good coupons up there; just sign up and print them out). Also, in a rather odd development, Chiles and Chocolate and Amin Indian Restaurant both packed up and swapped spaces. Chalk this up as a win for Chiles and Chocolate, long one of the more underrated Mexican restaurants in the borough.
On Thursday the fiasco behind the name of the new Greek restaurant on Seventh near Union reached comic proportions, as the owners put up a sign calling it Faros, even though it's clearly spelled Φaros. Or is is Pharos? Ugh.
On Friday I wondered what the hell this thing on Fifth Avenue is. As of right now I'm leaning towards a camera that catches people who drive through a red light, knocked out of place. The Petco coming to Seventh also put up some signage, and the recently-opened Couleur Cafe all the way down Seventh has got some serious foodporn going on.
Since opening last weekend on Seventh Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets, Couleur Cafe has already become one of the South Slope's top destinations for coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and relaxation.
While "relaxation" may seem like a strange feature to add to that list, one step through the door will give you an idea of what I'm talking about. Big windows let in a lot of sunlight, ceiling fans create a pleasant breeze, and light, neutral colors put you at ease. Grab a pastry and a cup of coffee, take a seat, and owner Murat Ozcan, a native of Paris, will drop by and make you feel like a member of his family. Spend two minutes in his cafe and you'll find yourself never wanting to leave.
But onto the food. Pastries include brioche, apple turnovers (above), fruit tarts, and croissants that are to die for (especialy when filled with chocolate, almonds, or both). They're handmade every morning by local baker David Benizeri, who hails from Nice, in the South of France. Coffee is a special blend provided by Brooklyn Roasting. All the meats used in the salads and sandwiches (like ham, smoked duck, sausage, and pork loin) are provided by Aux Fourchettes, a Woodmere-based smokehouse that usually supplies high-end restaurants but made an exception for Ozcan. Baguettes are from Pain d'Avignon.
The high quality of Couleur's offerings is indicative of Ozcan's dedication to his community (he has lived here for over 20 years, and his wife, Kristen Lynch, runs the nearby Young Player's Theater).
"For me, this isn't about making money," he said. "It's about being a part of the community, and letting the community be a part of us."
Couleur Cafe, 435 Seventh Avenue Brooklyn NY 11215. Phone: 718-788-6600.