It's common parlance to refer to the U.S. as "a nation of immigrants," and nowhere is this truer than in our gastronomic culture. In fact, our tongues, gullets and stomachs have been imminently more welcoming and porous over the years than our hearts and minds. Conveniently, our love for immigrant cuisines usually outlives our exclusionist sentiments.
Nevertheless, recent food trends light, low-fat, carb-free and "New American" have eroded our connection to a particular immigrant classic characterized by a mlange of melting cheeses, zesty sauces, chewy pastas and hearty meats: Italian-American.
Tucked into one of Colorado Springs' less inviting strip malls, Brooklyn Italian Kitchen and Bakery is one eatery sure to rekindle our love. It offers a genuinely delicious array of Italian-American treats, made by sturdy hands that marry quality ingredients in everything from bread to sauce to meatballs to desserts. Owner Sina Alonge's dedication comes through in every bite.
She and her family have worked hard to make the interior space as inviting as the food. They've installed countless little tchotchke-laden display shelves on the walls and packed the room with peach-clothed tables and comfy chairs. Those ordering take-out head straight to the back counter, as do rookies who don't know what pleasant and attentive table service Sarah and Ben offer those eating in. (Lesson learned: Don't blindly follow the two tipsy biker gents walking in ahead.)
Wherever you place your order, make sure it includes one of Alonge's New York-style pizzas ($12.99). She stretches the freshly made dough into an 18-inch disc, spreads a layer of homemade sauce across its shiny surface, and covers it with heaps of shredded mozzarella.
The resultant thin-crust pie is an absolute feast for the eyes, nose and mouth. Cheese bubbles, its molten heat rising with the aroma of tomato and oregano. Ever so slightly droopy at the tip, the crust on each slice holds its ground before offering the teeth a little chewing satisfaction. The tongue sorts through the rest.
This is the pinnacle of feel-good food, soothing the frazzled nerves of an overtired intellectual gastro-nerd (me) and bringing a smile to the nearby 6-foot-3, 175-pound fellow in crisp Levi's, with the bowie knife strapped to his hip.
Although the pizza alone is absolutely worth the trip, there's more to try. Meatballs and Italian sausages are made in-house, and become delicious sandwiches ($6.25) when tucked into house-baked rolls beneath a blanket of warm sauce and melted cheese. Pastas, served with daily soup or salad, hold their own.
"Maria Sleeps with the Fishes," ($10.50) a tasty rendering of fresh clams in a garlicky white wine sauce over a mound of perfectly al dente fettuccini, speaks to the restaurant's creativity and quality. Everything will reheat beautifully (conventional oven, 375-400 degrees for the pizza), so plan for a to-go box and save room for a homemade tiramisu or Napoleon.
Restaurants showcasing the care and dedication found at Brooklyn Italian Kitchen and Bakery are rare. Twenty years ago, a tough economy forced the Alonges to abandon their first shop in the Springs. We're lucky they're giving it another shot.
Brooklyn Italian Kitchen and Bakery
1371 N. Academy Blvd., 573-1900
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.;
Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.