As opening chef at Williamsburg’s Diner, Caroline Fidanza watched the bootstrap operation grow from a small, quirkily restored Kullman diner into a five-unit restaurant group, with a boutique butcher and grocery, a staunch commitment to local and sustainable agriculture, and an in-house literary gastromag to which she contributed both text and recipes. Ten years later, in 2009, Fidanza’s started small again — this time in a nearby storefront she and her partners, Diner alums Elizabeth Schula and Rebecca Collerton, converted from a retail bakery into a minimalist eight-stool cafe with the help of local designer Joseph Foglia, whose distinctive work you might know from Dressler. They named the space Saltie, which refers not only to an oceangoing ship, but also to the three chefs’ predilection for tempering sweet flavors with salty ones, and, says Fidanza, “for the personalities involved.” But Foglia’s design doesn’t deploy marine motifs as much as evoke the sea, with blue accents in a bright, modern, mostly white space, furnished with seats and counters crafted from white-powder-coated metal and maple.
Saltie begins the day with loaf cakes in flavors like ginger or olive oil, then segues into sandwiches with nautical names — “because it amuses us,” says Fidanza. The Captain’s Daughter, for instance, combines sardine, pickled egg, and salsa verde. The chefs bake everything in-house, from the focaccia, naan, and Parker House sandwich rolls to the lavender shortbread cookies and plum scones. And their sourcing is as meticulous as Fidanza’s was at Diner, with dairy coming from an organic Amish farmers’ cooperative in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and produce from Guy Jones at Blooming Hill Farm. They eschew cupcakes but embrace ice cream in flavors like Eton Mess (blueberry ripple with meringue) and a salty-caramel ice-cream sandwich. One thing the place doesn't have is a liquor license, which means that any real longshoremen (or neighborhood hipsters) will have to spin their yarns over watermelon agua frescas, peach lassis, or a house-blended herbal iced tea.
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