The perfect summer Sunday in Sheepshead Bay with Sal Carlino, of Papa Leone Pizzeria

Carlino with the family paddle
Carlino’s all business at the pizzeria

Happy #NewHorizons, brokesters. Now that you can see Pluto, you may as well expand your horizons here in the borough, too, by checking out Sheepshead Bay. That’s right! It’s time for the latest edition of Perfect Summer Sundays, Brokelyn’s original profile series where we bring you a local personality from the borough. They tell you how they like to spend a Sunday in their neighborhood. Then, you try it on for size.

This week, we’re taking you to Sheepshead Bay with Sal Carlino, the once-son and now-owner of Papa Leone Pizzeria. Established in 1974, this family-owned pizzeria boasts the authentic “mom and pop shop” status that old Brooklyn—or what little is left of it, anyway—is famous for. They’ve been making the same tantalizing homemade sauces for decades, and they’ve got a full bar with $2 anytime beers.

“My father opened Papa Leone’s in May of ’74,” says Carlino. “41 years later we’re pretty much the same place, but with me at the helm.”

Sal Carlino starts his Sundays all backwards: on the Southern tip of BK, and at the end of the alphabet. In other words, he heads to Avenue Z for a bagel from Bagel Boy (1602 Avenue Z). “It’s a must! Consistently good, and the perfect spot to bump into hungover friends.”


Glimpses of Little Odessa under the bridge on Brighton Beach Avenue. via Flickr user Violette79
Glimpses of a bygone Little Odessa, on Brighton Beach Avenue. via Flickr user Violette79

With a bagel and schmear to get you off to the races, Carlino recommends just walking from block to block and tracking the stark cultural changes around the Bay. “Every street has its own personality,” says Carlino. “Brighton Beach Avenue is full of awesome Russian supermarkets and super-specialty stores, like Gourmanoff (1029 Brighton Beach Avenue). Two blocks over on Neptune Avenue, that changes entirely—it’s more Spanish-speaking and Arabic-speaking communities.”

Once you reach the water, of course, cultural pride gives way to high tide. Spend a few hours on the water! It’s up to you whether you prefer Brighton Beach or Manhattan Beach, though Carlino prefers the suburban peace of the latter. “There are a lot of houses on that beach. And since we opened Papa’s in ’74, those property values have quadrupled.” (We’re so not surprised, unfortunately.)


Generation Z, enjoying the sands just south of Avenue Z. via Flickr user Mike G

What’s in Carlino’s beach cooler, we wanted to know? “Just a sixer of Stella.”

For Carlino, picnicking out on the sand isn’t exactly enjoyable. “Let’s be real,” he says. “Snacking on the beach can go from fun to crunchy real fast.” So if you still want to lunch on your own stuff but would rather stay inland—and avoid getting sand in your hummus—Carlino recommends his tried-and-true option: benches on the street.

Shore Boulevard is just the best for that, really. You can always find an empty bench to enjoy your food. And everyone does it, so you never feel out of place.”


Anyway café, where everybody knows your name. via Facebook
Anyway café, where everybody knows your name. via Facebook

When happy hour hits, Carlino doesn’t have to go far from Papa’s for some of the same good company and friendly atmosphere he enjoys at his own pizzeria. In fact, his choice spot happens to be right next door. “I love Anyway Café (111 Oriental Boulevard),” Carlino tells us. “It’s always loaded with the best characters, day-drinking and having way too much fun.”

To wrap up the night, there’s no place like home for Sal Carlino. After a day spent visiting his top spots and kicking up sand in the summer sun, Carlino prefers a good old-fashioned backyard BBQ to any restaurant in the nabe. “Barbecuing at home is always killer around here. And the minute someone hears ‘BBQ’ in South Brooklyn, all your friends show up.” Rub shoulders with the right locals during the day and you, too, could wind down the evening at one of these low-key soirées.


With a full bar and outdoor seating, Papa Leone is the ultimate summer spot. via Facebook
With a full bar and outdoor seating, Papa Leone is the ultimate summer spot. via Facebook

Then again, Sal’s own Papa Leone Pizzeria (103 Oriental Boulevard) is open until 10:45pm. So if and when you get invited to a neighborhood shindig in Sheepshead Bay, you can show off your local chops by bringing over a signature pie from Carlino’s shop, homemade sauce and all.

“Growing up, one of the best feelings was going to a friend’s house and having their parents tell me they grew up in Papa Leone, or had their first slice there,” says Carlino. “I plan to keep Papas around for another 40 years at least.”

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