When Sardinian expats Giovanna Fadda and her husband, Andrea Mocci, leased the long-vacant River Deli space at the intersection of Columbia Place and Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights, they decided to keep the name. “It’s famous,” says Fadda of the mysteriously empty storefront. “It’s kind of a landmark.” But the new incarnation, opening tonight, is a deli in name only. The couple have transformed it into a 42-seat Italian restaurant with a tiled floor, Art Deco lamps, and a windowed façade overlooking one of the borough’s most picturesque blocks.
They first found the space three years ago, and while they were waiting for it to go on the market, Fadda managed her brother’s Nolita wine bar and restaurant, Epistrophy. The new River Deli bears some resemblance to that cozy neighborhood hangout, as does Mocci’s pan-regional menu, which references his heritage with cured meats and cheeses served on wooden platters imported from Sardinia, along with the island’s signature crisp flatbread, pane carasau, and a rendition of malloredus sardi alla Campidanese, a saffron-tinged pasta with sausage, tomato, and Pecorino cheese. The all-Italian wine list spotlights a few indigenous varieties, such as Vermentino, Monica, and Cannonau, plus Ferruccio Deiana’s Pluminus and Ajana — higher-end blends you might call “super-Sardinians.” Still to come: brunch and sidewalk seating.
River Deli, 32 Joralemon St., at Columbia Pl., Brooklyn Heights; 718-254-9200. Cash only; closed Monday.