After months of renovations, one of Carroll Gardens' most popular and longstanding Italian restaurants, Marco Polo Ristorante, officially reopened its doors on Tuesday night with a celebration of old and new.
Joseph Chirico—who launched the restaurant in 1983 as an upscale dining alternative to his sandwich shop a few doors down—welcomed guests to see the extensive restaurant makeover in the same breath as he announced he was handing over the reins to his son.
"Marco has worked for me for years and he's taken a lot of beatings from me," Chiricho joked, his Italian accent undiluted by a life spent living in Brooklyn. "What can I say, the guy is ready to take the torch."
After much applause, clinking of glasses, and flash photography, the younger Chirico took the podium to thank his father and those in attendance.
"I grew up in this restaurant," said Marco Chirico. "At 12 years old, I was busing tables and it became a part of me, a part of my passion. I plan to keep it running for another 29 years so we can all grow old together."
Family, friends and local politicians were treated to a banquet of oysters on ice, antipasti and endless glasses of wine as they took in the gut renovations that have rendered the restaurant reborn.
Gone is the bright orange signage, dark wood entrance and green awning outside, replaced with a clean scripted typeface painted directly onto the building's facade, glass-paneled doors and expanded patio seating that peeks in on the bar area.
Where murals of the explorer Marco Polo's journeys once surrounded patrons inside, the walls of the first-floor dining area have now been hung with large-scale photography of Venice. Tables have a more modern, bistro aesthetic and from the ceilings, bright ribbon-like lighting elements evoke cheery red gift bows.
"We've opened up walls, installed a new bar scene, all new finishes, all new furniture, everything," said Harris Smith of Crown Design, lead designer on the project. "It's a facelift to this very historic Carroll Gardens restaurant."
But the transformation doesn't stop at the decor.
Marco Polo has also adapted its menu with on-trend additions, such as a five-course tasting menu featuring veal tonnato, grilled octopus and homemade pastas.
Likewise, a new wine vault—visible through a glass wall at the rear of the restaurant—will allow patrons to explore rare vintages Marco Polo has been collecting over the years as well as "new world" finds, Marco Chirico said.
But one thing will never change, he added.
"A restaurant is supposed to be like an extended family," stated the new boss. "For us, that's what it has always been about. We want it to be a place where you can come and feel comforted."