Italian food lovers: Get your forks ready.

The Second Annual Italian Restaurant Week kicked off in Brooklyn on Tuesday night with a sneak peek at a new Italian cultural center and a showcase of dishes from Brooklyn's finest Italian restaurants.

This year, 42 restaurants across Brooklyn are participating, offering perks like $15 lunches, $25 dinners, and deals on wine and desserts. In addition, Italian specialty stores throughout Bensonhurst are offering discounts during the entire month of October.

"The goal is to get people in the restaurants, bring them together, and enjoy the food," says Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. Unlike New York City Restaurant Week, which features more than 200 restaurants around the boroughs, Italian Restaurant Week is smaller and offered in Brooklyn only.

It highlights the strong Italian culture that has thrived in the borough in the last century.

"It brings people from Manhattan and the other boroughs to Brooklyn, boosting the tourism and the economy of the community," says Marco Chirico, owner of Marco Polo and Enoteca on Court, two restaurants participating in the event. "We showcase the dishes of our culture, the cuisine that we learned from. We get to show our culture through our food."

This year kicked off at Il Centro, a new Italian American cultural center in Bensonhurst that is slated to open early next year. The center, which is six stories tall and more than 45,000 square feet, will contain a swimming pool, a variety of health and fitness clubs, Italian language classes, cooking classes, and a library on Italian culture.

Il Centro will also offer cultural events and programs for students and senior citizens.

"I think it's going to be the hottest thing in town," Scissura says of Il Centro. "Our sneak peek alone was amazing."

Participants in Italian Restaurant Week also hope that it, in conjunction with Il Centro, will lure relocated Italian Americans back to Brooklyn.

"This will bring back a lot of things for the community, especially the Italian community," says Chirico. "It brings people back to Brooklyn and shows them what they've been missing out on."

Italian Restaurant Week began on October 8 and runs through October 15. For participating restaurants visit