CROWN HEIGHTS — It may be hard to imagine eating pizza for breakfast without also imagining a very bad headache and a perilously low bank balance — but Ron Brown, chef and owner of Franklin Avenue pizzeria Barboncino, would like you to try.
"Some of my favorite pies are the brunch pies," he said of the "bacon-egg-and-cheese" pizzas and Nutella calzones that draw early-birds to his popular Crown Heights pizzeria, which will serve up free brunch on Saturday, Oct. 13 in honor of its first anniversary.
"I think people sometimes have a little trouble thinking of pizza for breakfast, but it really satisfies."
If any restaurant has earned a pass to nudge New Yorkers on their pizza prejudices, it's probably Barboncino. New York Magazine heralded it "destination-worthy", while the Village Voice called its margherita "unsurpassed" in a field crowded with wood-fired competitors.
And while it my not be the pizzeria that redefined the neighborhood (that hyperbolic honor belongs to Kingston Avenue's Basil) Barboncino still manages to turn out regulars almost as fast as it puts up pies.
"There's not anything else like this in the neighborhood," said Clinton Hill resident Liz Giardina as she polished off Sunday brunch. "There's Franny's on Flatbush, but the pizza's better here."
At least some of Barboncino's success owes to the neighborhood itself. Brown spent 11 months pounding the pavement in across the borough, wandering "neighborhood by neighborhood, street by street" in search of the perfect location for his seventh food venture.
"It's unique, this part of Crown Heights, this part of Brooklyn," he said of his stretch of Franklin Avenue between Lincoln Place and St. Johns Place.
The space, too, is unique, with a split-level dining room and a small but sought-after back-patio that all encourage lingering.
"I stress that this is like a little mini-vacation," Brown said. "Money is tight in Crown Heights, and we want this to be an experience that feels worth it."
Even if it's free. Brown said he hit on the idea of a free brunch as a way to celebrate the community that embraced it without losing one of the restaurant's routinely busy night-shifts.
"I feel so grateful every day about how the neighborhood has received us," Brown said. "Almost every day I have someone come up to me and thank me for opening this in the neighborhood. If that's not reason enough to want to come every night, I don’t know what is."