Sometimes our memories make old things seem better, but when we see what has happened to them after many years, we can only feel great loss. I still mourn the missing Twin Towers in New York, and I know my city will never look or feel the same after 9/11. I miss Shea Stadium, and I know Dodger fans who still weep for the long gone Ebbetts Field. To be a New Yorker is to deal with these losses and move on, but that doesn’t mean we can’t feel bad about it now and then – or sometimes forever.
Recently I had a chance to visit Canarsie Pier in Brooklyn, a place I used to go in my youth to have a good time. One of the main attractions to lure me (and many others) there was Abbracciamento’s Restaurant on the Pier. This restaurant had an ideal setting right on Jamaica Bay, plenty of parking and, despite the wonderful location, the menu and the service were the reasons people came back again and again.
Sadly, upon my return I saw the old restaurant all boarded up and in a state of decay. The picture windows I remembered gleaming in sparkling lights coming off the bay were covered up, and the awnings and roof were falling apart. I haven’t been down this way in over twenty years, but since I was passing I wanted to just take a look, and I felt like yet another page in the book of my life had been turned.
Abbracciamento’s had a family atmosphere and was indeed run by a family: the Abbracciamento family, who still own and operate a restaurant in Queens on Woodhaven Boulevard. I recall the meals being very generous, and I always felt compelled to get a seafood dish due to the place’s location. Everything I ever had there was nothing short of excellent: I recall lobster tails, stuffed flounder, and a melt in your mouth filet of sole. Of course, a side order of any kind of pasta had to be a given, and all these dishes were delicious. Desserts were sinful as well as generous, and I believe that back then everything was made on the premises the way it should be. In short, the place offered simply excellent Italian food cooked with all the right ingredients, especially love.
Now I stood there looking out over the bay and, though it was a beautiful day, I felt a storm cloud over me. It was difficult to see the torn awning flapping from the skeleton of its frame and the old circular roof disintegrating against the blue sky, almost as if the place had been mortally wounded and its carcass left to rot in the sun.
Though the sun sparkled on the water and it was a lovely spring day, I turned, started back to my car, and drove away quickly. I felt no compulsion to look back at another piece of my past lost forever.