AlMar is a neighborhood gem, serving friendly faces, cozy vibes and big bowls of rigatoni on Front Street since 2011. We sat down with co-owners Alfredo Miccoli and Marcello Scandiffio to discuss AlMar’s history and future in DUMBO.
Get excited, Dumbo: a renovated space, party packages and holidays are all on the horizon, all wrapped up in the everyone-here-is-family feeling, that's made AlMar so special for the past twelve years.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is the Dumbo x AlMar story?
Marcello: Alfredo and I were both working here at 111 Front Street, back when it different restaurant called Dumbo General Store. We were working so hard at the restaurant that the owner, Anna Castellani, asked us if we wanted to buy it. We decided to go for it and Anna graciously offered us a four year plan to pay off the restaurant. Once we took over, we slowly turned the restaurant into AlMar, without ever closing! That was in 2011 and this year we’re celebrating our 12th year in business.
We serve simple, delicious, Italian cuisine that reminds me of my family.
Making that transition without even closing sounds challenging! What is the inspiration for the menu you serve today?
Alfredo: I am from Bari, in southeast Italy, and Marcello is Italian American. We grew up with these flavors and taste for fresh, simple Italian cuisine. Bari is on the coast of the Adriatic Sea and so the cuisine features a lot of seafood and vegetables. When you come to AlMar you will see that celebration of seafood in our menu. We always have a few fish and seafood appetizers, pastas, and entrees along with our daily specials.
Marcello: I am from an Italian American family in Astoria, and I grew up with these flavors as well. I’m glad that we can serve simple, delicious, Italian cuisine that reminds me of my family. Also, we have many options for people who want to eat something that is both healthy and delicious.
So there is a big connection to family in your food. As head chef, Alfredo, what role has your family played in your cooking career?
Alfredo: When I moved to New York, I was a photographer. I missed the flavors from home, so I would call my mom or grandmother on the landline and get recipes from them. Once I started cooking, I started to remember the flavors from home and worked to recreate them. Over time, I developed my technique, and the recipes that I serve here at AlMar.
Back home, we would never eat the same food two days in a row. That’s why at AlMar we always have approximately eight daily specials that always change. We have a fixed menu of our customers’ favorites over the years, but the specials allow me to utilize our fresh ingredients to create new things.
We want people to feel at home and we focus on serving great food at a good price in an atmosphere that isn’t stuffy or pretentious
The family feeling extends beyond the food. Marcello, how are you able to create this welcoming atmosphere as general manager?
Marcello: Making people feel comfortable is my main aim at AlMar. While some restaurants cater to tourists, we are proud to say that most of our customers are residents in the neighborhood. We want people to feel at home and we focus on serving great food at a good price in an atmosphere that isn’t stuffy or pretentious. I think we’re doing a pretty good job because so many of our customers are regulars!
Congratulations on twelve years in Dumbo! What makes Dumbo a great place to do business?
Marcello: One big change over the past decade has been the arrival of more residents. When we first opened, most of Dumbo was office space, that has changed drastically in the last few years. We've seen new buildings be constructed and even lived through the entire formation of Brooklyn Bridge Park! For AlMar, we’ve seen a big shift recently from serving mostly lunch rushe for people at work, to busier dinner services for people eating near their home.
Alfredo: When I started working in Dumbo, I could see all of the potential for the neighborhood. Over the past eleven years that potential has come to fruition. This neighborhood is a mix of ages, backgrounds, and jobs. We have business owners, artists, and professionals of all types living and working here. Thanks to all of the different ways to get here, Dumbo has become a destination and we’re glad we can serve the neighborhood and make people feel at home here.
A big thanks to the Dumbo community for supporting AlMar over the years! We look forward to welcoming them into our newly renovated space early in 2023.
What’s next for you two and AlMar?
Alfredo: We are looking forward to celebrating the holidays with our patrons! We want to thank the Dumbo community for supporting AlMar and we look forward to welcoming them into our newly renovated space early in 2023. As for me personally, I like new challenges. After getting the food up to the standard I wanted I started learning more about wine. Maybe I’ll start baking desserts next?
Marcello: While we will have some updates to our house, will still remain true to AlMar which is all about the food and the people! We also just began catering and hosting private events. There is also a chance that we will be opening a new restaurant with similar flavors but in a different concept in the future.