Ferdinando's is the oldest Sicilian restaurant in New York City. A visit there is a trip back in time to when the the block served as waterfront marketplace to the docks, Carroll Gardens, and the surrounding neighborhoods. Union Street stretches through Grand Army Plaza/Prospect Park; Columbia Street through Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO. The restaurant has survived generations of radical change to the neighborhood (currently strollers and hipsters) by simply remaining true to its roots. They served spleen before spleen was cool. Ferdinando's is, and has always been, owned and operated by the same family. Frank Buffa, himself, greets visitors at the door. His staff is old school.
The panelles are heavenly, perfectly set off by the generous puff of fresh ricotta and grated Pecorino. You can count on the cold seafood salads to be fresh and well-balanced. I favor the polpo and frutti de mari. They're cooked perfectly and dressed in a bright vinaigrette. The pasta con sarde is reliable comfort food made with home-jarred sardines.
The dining room has seen lots of wear, but that adds to the charm of its rich architectural detail (probably why Scorsese chose it as a location in the Departed). Heirloom tomatoes grow in the courtyard garden. Enjoy nice weather under the grapevine-laden arbor.