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Honest Materials: 5 Ideas to Steal from Brooklyn’s Astarita Pizzeria by TBo

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Honest Materials: 5 Ideas to Steal from Brooklyn’s Astarita Pizzeria by TBo

January 12, 2024

How do you like your pizza? The Astarita of Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn, serves its pies with a helping of affordable remodeling ideas. Architects Thom Dalmas and Bretaigne Walliser of Remodelista favorite TBo (for Thom Bretaigne Office) specialize in the domestic sphere, but when longstanding clients, Carmine and Tina Casale, decided to open a pizzeria, the couple agreed to design it.

The Casales both hail from Italy and Tiny’s family ran a Neapolitan pizzeria. They also happened to own a single-story, historic brick building ready for reinvention. Of course, their longstanding dream required a quick turn-around on a tight budget. Masters at applying humble materials in inventive ways, Bretaigne and Thom eagerly rose to the task—and gained a new favorite hangout: “We sought out a few impactful moves to highlight the charm of this little spot and to create something earthy and comforting—and, we hope, just a little unexpected,” says Bretaigne, who adds, “The food is insanely good; everyone we know in the neighborhood is hooked.”

Here are five TBo approaches worth considering for own cost-conscious remodel, add your own toppings.

Photography by Jonathan Hokklo, courtesy of TBo (@tbo_architecture).

1. Mix custom elements with off-the-rack supplies.

the astarita is located in a \193\1 yellow brick building that anchors a sunny  12
Above: The Astarita is located in a 1931 yellow brick building that anchors a sunny corner at 797 Fifth Avenue in Greenwood Heights. The space had previously been a corner store, an apartment, and an office, but most recently was unoccupied. TBo built a new entry using salvaged glazed wooden doors (sourced from New York Old Iron of Brooklyn) and extended the dining area onto the sidewalk using Ikea’s Tärnö Bistro Sets; $79 for a table and two chairs.

The outside space is demarcated by large Fluted Planters—”these are concrete instead of terracotta because it’s more durable for East Coast winters,” says Thom.

natural light floods the interior courtesy of the priciest item on the punch li 13
Above: Natural light floods the interior courtesy of the priciest item on the punch list: custom cold-rolled steel windows (locally fabricated by Arista Steel). The existing brick walls were left bare and the new floor is poured concrete. The lighting is a mix of wall washers, linear suspension, and decorative pendants (shown here, one of the several Ago Alley Pendants in different hues (currently $295 marked down from $369 from the Finnish Design Shop).

2. Hang curtains as flexible partitions.

ab0ve: &#8\2\20;there&#8\2\17;s a lot of overlapping activity that happ 14
Ab0ve: “There’s a lot of overlapping activity that happens in a compact space,” Bretaigne tells us. “One tender layout issue was the bathroom opening onto the dining room. Building a partition wall would have cut into critical circulation space so that was not an option. We opted for a simple curtain to create a little bit of privacy. Our metal worker crafted a curved rod and we hung a custom lime curtain around the door. “

The curtain fabric—a Robert Kaufman velveteen in Bonsai Green— is a surprise counterpart to the red pizza oven imported from Naples. A bar with a cement troweled front and a knife-edge wood counter anchors the space between the two. Note the tall ceiling with exposed wooden joists.

3. Draw and paint on your walls.

&#8\2\20;brick walls impart warmth to the room, and tina and carmine love t 15
Above: “Brick walls impart warmth to the room, and Tina and Carmine love the rough texture and color of the existing masonry shell (we repointed as needed to ensure the mortar is in good shape)—but we also needed something decorative for the walls,” says Bretaigne. Their solution? They commissioned a suite of small murals to “act as architectural interventions in the space, softly twisting the experience but remaining peripheral to the dining experience.”

Artist Will Karlen, (who happens to be Thom’s nephew) has worked at Eleven Madison Park as “resident artist” creating commemorative sketches and mementos for patrons and was recruited for the project.

each small section was taped off, plastered, and then hand painted on site. 16
Above: Each small section was taped off, plastered, and then hand painted on site.
the astarita pizzeria brooklyn tbo studio design 4a
Above: The murals show, among other things, flying angels, imagined landscapes, Italian sparrows, and sprigs of plumeria.

4. Set a pleasingly simple table.

the astarita pizzeria brooklyn. tbo studio design. jonathan hokklo photo. 18
Above: The ash tables and benches were built for the space. The Asheville Wood Ladderback Dining Chairs, $178, came from the Dixie Seating Co. of Statesville, NC, which, in addition to natural, offers them in 22 colors. Ikea fluted glasses are paired with plates and flatware from Restaurant Depot, one of many restaurant ware sources notable for sturdy, affordable basics.

5. Upgrade the floor with inlaid tile.

&#8\2\20;a poured concrete floor is perfect for a high traffic area, but th 19
Above: “A poured concrete floor is perfect for a high traffic area, but the space needed something extra,” says Bretaigne. “For inspiration we looked at decorative hand-painted motifs from early majolica pottery and the excavated mosaic floors in ancient villas. Instead of tiling over this floor uniformly, we selectively set a few hand-painted ceramic tiles [Tulipe Multi from Mosaic House] into the concrete. In simple compositions, they become small artworks underfoot, and feel both ancient and modern.”
The Astarista Pizza is at 797 Fifth Avenue in Greenwood Heights, Brooklyn. “At night, the space glows and the aroma of fresh pizza wafts through the neighborhood,” says Bretaigne.

See Bretaigne and Thom’s Catskills family cabin in our book Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home—and get a glimpse of it in Steal This Look.

Here are two more favorite TBo projects:

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Product summary  

Honest Materials 5 Ideas to Steal from Brooklyns Astarita Pizzeria by TBo portrait 4
Coffee & Side Tables

Tarno Table

$79.00 USD from Ikea
alley pendant mudgray s 01
Jonas Wagell

Alley Pendant

$295.00 USD from Finnish Design Shop

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