Over the last six years, chef Kevin Adey and his wife, Debbie, have watched Bushwick change, morphing from a family neighborhood as gentrifiers infiltrate. When they moved here from Florida, Kevin says, “it was like small-town America. You know your neighbor and say hello. I love that. That environment really spoke to me.” The pair got to know their community, and when they began to prepare to open their own restaurant, they knew they wanted a comfortable space where they could feed friends. The culmination of those plans was Faro (436 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn; 718-381-8201), which they’ve just opened in a converted warehouse that once held works from MoMA.
The Adeys met working in a restaurant in Florida, and they’ve been plotting a restaurant for the better part of a decade. Kevin grew up in upstate New York, but he’d never really considered cooking in New York City until a trip to Chicago made him realize that city restaurants worked at a higher level than what he was used to. “My God, every place we went to was better than every single place I’d eaten at in Florida,” he says. “Not to take anything away from Sarasota, but it’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond there. I thought I had more in me than that.”
They jumped at the chance to move into a cheap Bushwick sublet; Debbie took a job with Jean-Georges (she eventually became a general manager in that empire), while Kevin started cooking under Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin before moving over to the kitchen at Northeast Kingdom in Bushwick.
After five years, the couple decided it was time to open their own place, and they began dreaming of a restaurant that was “a comfortable place to work and dine,” says Kevin. “We have to live here sixteen hours a day, every day. We didn’t want to build a restaurant that was designed to punish us.”
They found the warehouse space, which necessitated a full build-out, allowing them to install exactly the kitchen and dining room they wanted. And the dining room they wanted was, first and foremost, spacious. “We’re kind of tired of the new Brooklyn cuisine thing when it comes to being shoehorned into a restaurant and given none of the amenities of the price you’re paying,” says Kevin. “You get a paper napkin, you’re sitting on top of your neighbor, and you’re paying Manhattan prices. I never understood that.” The warehouse is 2,500 square feet, but the Adeys installed only 50 seats to keep it airy. Walls are white, and kitsch is nonexistent. Tables are custom built so that they’re a bit larger than normal — that way, says Kevin, you’re not moving plates around, Tetris-style, when more food comes out of the kitchen. There’s an area by the bar where people can hang out while they wait for a table, too, so that they’re not reaching over bar diners or infringing on their space.
Service is designed to match. “We wanted to be able to provide top-notch service,” says Kevin, “so that people aren’t pouring their own wine and water. It’s little things, like the staff wearing aprons so you know who works here.”
As for the food, Kevin is sourcing seasonally, locally, and sustainably, to put together a board of dishes that includes house-made pastas, a wood-fired porgy, steak, and porridge. “I’m really excited about the porridge,” says Kevin. “We’re milling our own flour and grain here. A couple of times a night, I mill emmer, wheat, corn, and oats, and cook them like a porridge. It’s served with morel mushrooms, English peas, and whey, which is the byproduct of the ricotta we make. It’s a beautiful spring porridge.”
Still, says Kevin, “pastas are the star here,” and you’ll find renditions like egg paccheri with bolognese, squid-ink chitarra with clams and mussels, and bucatini with chicken confit. “Nothing tastes as good as fresh pasta,” says Kevin, especially when the price is right: No item on the menu will set you back more than $20.
And on the drinks list, look for a classic cocktail program built on spirits sourced from small producers; local beers; and New York State wine on tap.