In Brooklyn Heights only occasionally, we'd always be sure to pass Armando's on Montague Street, marveling at the neon sign and savoring the idea that such places were still among us. But we didn't get around to dining there until we were hit with this news: Armando's is closing Sunday after more than 70 years in business.
So we stopped by with some friends Thursday night, and were immediately taken by the coziness of the place, with its leather booths and chummy bar, its eclectic decor (images of old-school Hollywood actors, historic Brooklyn scenes, fancy lamps), and well-trodden wooden floors. It's simply what we just knew it would be: A place we wish we'd been savoring for years, instead of in a last-minute attempt to soak up its charms.
Our meal was satisfying, thanks to our congenial waiter, who so enthusiastically touted the Chicken Rollatini that we each ordered it. The meal, served with salad and side (we chose pasta) was so generous that we skipped dessert. And we spent plenty of time just walking around, trying to make mental notes.
Retirement of the owner sealed Armando's fate, but it's impossible not to put its loss (it will be replaced by a chain store called Spicy Pickle) into the greater scheme of unique New York institutions that have vanished in recent years.
And as much as we bemoan the dimming of the sign's neon, we think this contributor to Brooklyn Heights Blog, which launched an effort to save the sign, summed it up nicely in this excerpt:
Its not about the sign ... Armandos had classed up Montague Street for 72 years with good Italian food in a classic setting. It is a piece of history in this neighborhood, and we all know there are so few left. I remember eating at Foffes with my parents and seeing former governon Hugh Carey there think him and his ilk would come to Brooklyn Heights for Spicy Pickle? Its a shame.
The Brooklyn Paper did this round-up in 2001 on classic Brooklyn eateries, which is now painfully out of date. Gage & Tollner, for one, was still around, and if ever there was an unthinkable restaurant loss, it was that place.
-- Rolando Pujol
Check out more photos from our visit after the jump.