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Old school! Two Toms serves a perfect chop in grandma’s rec room

The Brooklyn Paper

Before the Elsen sisters started baking salted caramel apple pies at Four and Twenty Blackbirds, before Halyards started curating whiskeys, before Crop to Cup began brewing guilt-free Uganda Bugisu, before the word “Gowanus” started meaning “trendy,” there was a restaurant called Two Toms.

The restaurant is still there, the pork chops still transcendent.

Yet the trend-seekers go elsewhere.

Even in an age when food fetishists strive to rediscover the roots of Brooklyn dining, history can be a curse for a place that’s hiding in plain sight.

“We’re so well known that no one thinks they can get in here, like we’re always jam-packed,” said owner Anthony Catapano, the nephew of the restaurant’s co-founder.

Yes, there really are two Toms behind Two Toms, though only one name has not been lost to history.

Tom Giordano opened the old-school joint with another Tom on Third Avenue in what was then called South Brooklyn in 1948. The concept of the restaurant, insomuch as restaurants had “concepts” back then, was to feed the neighborhood’s laborers. There was a Daily News plant up the block (it’s a Yuppie climbing gym now) and the South Brooklyn Casket Company employed hundreds around the corner (it’s still in operation, but the plant’s assembly line has slowed, a subtle violation of the old saw about the certainty of death and taxes).

After Giordano died, his wife Nancy ran it until 1970, when her brother, Jimmy Catapano, took over.

He still comes in every day — hunched over at age 85 like the punctuation mark at the end of a sentence asking why customers aren’t coming in. His son, Anthony, runs the joint, seating customers, taking orders and making sure the regulars still feel like the wood-paneled room is their clubhouse. Anthony’s brother, Jimmy, is the cook.

There’s no printed menu. You can ask Anthony for pretty much anything, but when you ask him what’s good on the menu, all he says is, “The pork chop.”

Catapano could be forgiven if he’s using the word “the” as a superlative rather than a mere definite article. The pork chop at Two Toms is indeed “the” pork chop, a massive, double-thick porcine T-bone that is charred to a crisp on the outside, yet juicy and sublime on the inside. The bone alone could keep you happy for two days (unless you foolishly give it to the dog).

Beyond “the” pork chop, little else comes out of the kitchen that would bring in the foodie crowd: the antipasto is strictly sliced meats, cheese and roasted red peppers; the baked clams are satisfying, but not transcendent; the spaghetti carbonara comes in a huge plastic bowl like grandma used to serve (though memory suggests that nonna’s version had more kick).

But then the chop comes out and all is forgiven.

Tom Toms [255 Third Ave. between Union and President streets in Gowanus, (718) 875-8689]. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

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Reader Feedback

ty from pps says:
Weren't they closed by the Board of Health for a while? All fixed?
Aug. 13, 2011, 4:25 pm
Rick from South Brooklyn says:
The best place in Brooklyn to eat...no bs just good food and lots of it.
Aug. 14, 2011, 10:50 am
Matt from park slope says:
Yes hands down the best place to eat..the restaurants dont cook like them anymore..here is the real deal, its family cooking your food not hired help in the back...everything is fresh and "delish". Don't know if they were ever closed..go in their kitchen everything is there for you so see..I am a long time customer...no one compares the quality and the amount of food they give you..and cheap. "Two Toms has left its mark in Brooklyn..."the best" its like always going home when your there....great people Anthony & Jimmy are the best...!!!!!!!!!
Aug. 14, 2011, 10:57 am
angela from red hook says:
Favorite all time...like rick said...best place to eat..the company the food the owners...dont get better then this...
Aug. 14, 2011, 11:02 am
ty from pps says:
It was back in March.

http://www.brownstoner.com/blog/2011/03/two-toms-closed/
Aug. 14, 2011, 9 pm
joe from gowanus says:
anyone know what kind of peppers they use to top the pork chops? it's definitely now sweet or roasted peppers but can't put my finger on it.
Aug. 15, 2011, 7:34 pm
Ken from Williamsburg says:
I ate there a long time age. The portions are huge. Correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that there is a minimum of four persons per party
Aug. 16, 2011, 8:53 pm
Sal M from Red Hook/Gowanus says:
I think the peppers are sweet....they are good...and I was just there you dont have to be a minimum of four...and let me make this very clear..I deliver food in the area...you dont want to know what I see in restaurants in that area...Two Toms might look old but anytime go in that basement..or walk into that kitchen..spotless...food is made fresh. No one keeps a cleaner place then them. DOH are a bunch of morons, go do a real job and take a good look at some of the places I deliver too..you would die. DOH has a scam going on..what a disgrace. We love Two Toms always will..city just trying to run out small mom & pop places..sad.
Aug. 17, 2011, 8:46 am
Joe P from staten island says:
Go to www.twotomsrestaurant.com check out website..great..Anthony & Jimmy are the best they cook the food for you..no hired help just them you dont get that anymore...everything is fresh. Many of the small mom & pop places had to close due to NYC pushing them out of business..Two Toms is a landmark...love it..me & my wife go at least once a week usually on a friday night...its like family. A must try. See you soon guys.
Aug. 17, 2011, 10:53 am
Ernie Benevento from Catskill ny says:
The food has always been great I had many parties , I
was also a dish washer when I was a Kid ,I'm now 64 my Mother also worked there.
I still remember Nancy feeding me in the back, great food greater memories
Aug. 25, 2011, 1:52 pm
Terry from Cobble Hill says:
The peppers are pickled.
Sept. 1, 2011, 1:24 pm
eddie from bayridge says:
my mother comes from down that way and has eatten at t.t.many times going back in time,many years ago.she always said they were very good.my freind jerry goes there all yhe time and always raves about the food,portions huge and food delicious.must try for myself somenight.looking forward to a good home cook meal.you go t.t.
Sept. 2, 2011, 4:53 pm
TwoToms from Gowanus/Park Slope says:
Yes Ernie the memories are great thanks for writing come in anytime would love to see you...remember you well, my dad says hello.

Eddie what are you waiting for come on in...portions are still huge..price is still great would love to see you. Check our website we now have some live bands on the weekends...call for a reservation early gets booked fast. See you guys there...you too Ernie come on in.

Thanks for all the great reviews.
Sept. 6, 2011, 9:06 pm
John Colombo from Williamsburg bioyn says:
The members of the 14th homicide squad held my retirement party at two toms, in 1979 and I invited my father and when he tasted the food, his eyes glowed and said I have not had food like this since his mom cook for him and he was born in 1903.
Sept. 8, 2013, 7:17 pm
Mike Castellano from Park Slope says:
I ordered a rib eye steak because that's all they had to offer no other cuts I ordered the steak medium it came out very rare also the steak the fat on the steak was overwhelming what good is a large steak when most of it is fat the chicken parm was terrible and no flavor to the sauce since the brother Jimmy was let go the place went down hill
Dec. 31, 2013, 10:13 am

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