Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York | I just want to eat!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

image of Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Last week end, Jodi and I were invited to Il Colosseo (The Coliseum), and Italian restaurant located in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, that opened in 1991, at a time where the area was an all Italian neighborhood. There, we met with Giulio Mannino, the son of the owner, Lorenzo.  He gave us a bit of history about his family who comes from Sicily and explained to us that he worked in the restaurant business since age 14. He also told me that the dishes at the restaurant are straight or derived from family recipes.

When you enter the restaurant, there is first the bar area.
image of Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Then, you pass an arch to go tot the dining room with its open kitchen in the back.
image of Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

There is definitely a feel that it is an old Italian restaurant where you would eat traditional dishes.

Also visible from the dining room is the wood fire brick oven where they make pizza.
image of brick oven at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Apparently, when they opened, they were the first to have such oven in Brooklyn. 

Giulio decided to make us try different dishes that are on the menu. We first started with the Misto Mare, an appetizer plate composed of octopus, shrimp and baked clams:
image of misto mare octopus, shrimp and baked clams at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

The octopus and shrimp (that were of a nice size) were deliciously grilled, giving them a nice char; simply grilled I should say, letting them be the star. The octopus, purchased from one of their friends in Bensonhurst, was perfectly tender that is not a given, and they served the full animal...

image of misto mare octopus, shrimp and baked clams at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

However, I did not like the baked clams: too much breading and I could barely taste the clam.

The next appetizer is a classic: calamari fritti or fried calamari.
image of calamari fritti or fried calamari at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

It was good, maybe not the best I ever had, but good, the calamari itself not being rubbery. It came with a sauce that I guess was marinara, that was a bit watery.

Then, we tried their eggplant pizza or Pizza Melanzane, made in the brick oven.
image of eggplant pizza at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

After Capizzi recently, I am rediscovering eggplant pizza. Often, there is too much breading or the eggplant is cut so thin you cannot taste it. At Il Colosseo, it was big chunks of eggplant, so I could enjoy the texture as well as this particular taste this vegetable has, both smokey and sweet.
image of eggplant pizza at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

The crust of the pizza was nicely charred with a crispy outside and a soft center. There was also a nice amount of cheese on it. So it is definitely a great pizza to try.
image of eggplant pizza at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

After the pizza, we tried the pasta: penne a la vodka.
image of penne a la vodka at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

They gave us each half portions that we had a lot of food to try. I cannot imagine eating a full portion anyway by myself (although...).
image of penne a la vodka at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

Let me tell you: that sauce was fantastic! First of all, there was enough sauce, that is not always the case in restaurants. Second, they make it with fresh tomatoes and a touch of cream, so it is still light but tasty. I could have licked my plate (I think I did...).

The last dish was chicken Francese.
image of chicken Francese at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

The way this dish is made is by dipping the breast (often pounded to make it thin) in flour and egg, cooked in a skillet and smothered by a light lemon sauce. At Il Colosseo, they dip the breast in butter and sauté it with white wine and lemon. When it came, you could definitely smell the white wine and lemon. The chicken was perfectly cooked and moist and the sauce was delicate, not overpowering. Nice dish if you like chicken.

After this feast, Giulio proposed to have some homemade desserts...How could we say no? We started off (or I should say finished?) with tiramisu.
image of tiramisu at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

That was a fantastic tiramisu! It was light and creamy. What is interesting about this dessert is that you will not find one identical tiramisu in pastry shops or restaurants: they all have their own recipe. At Il Colosseo, they add a bit of anisette to it. It was perfect with an espresso:
image of espresso at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York


The second dessert was the Italian cheese cake, made with ricotta, of course.
image of Italian cheese cake at Il Colosseo in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York

When I tasted it, it reminded me a bit of a tourteau fromagé, a specialty from the Poitou-Charentes region in France, except that it did not have the thick shell, burnt on top, that the tourteau has. However, the texture, lightness, freshness and taste was very close. This is definitely not your regular cheese cake, the American version being denser. I really liked it, although between the two desserts we tasted, the tiramisu was my favorite.

This was definitely a delicious meal: if you are looking for traditional Italian dishes that will transport you to Italy, Il Colosseo is a good spot for you!

Enjoy (I did)!

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Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!

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