Café Mars is an unusual Italian restaurant, nestled in the heart of the historically Italian neighborhood of Gowanus, Brooklyn. Opened in May 2023, co-chefs Paul D’Avino and Jorge Olarte, alongside service & beverage director Madalyn Summers, are looking to honor tradition while expanding the definition of what an Italian restaurant can be.
Steeped in Italian history, Café Mars occupies a former pasta factory and Italian grocer, sitting across the street from the home Paul’s great grandfather lived in, after immigrating to Brooklyn from Campania, Italy in 1901. While Café Mars’ connection to the past is strong, we also tap into the ever-evolving elements of modern Italian culture beyond just gastronomy. Our combined restaurant experience (wd~50, Ma Peche, Estela, aska, Rolf & Daughters, and M. Wells Dinette), travels, and research lend a broad base to deliver a different kind of Italian meal.
Whereas many Italian restaurants tend to use a magnifying glass to zoom in on specific regions and traditions, we instead reach for a telescope. Café Mars looks at the totality of Italian cuisine, gaining inspiration from every region of Italy, and even beyond the boot. From the port cities of North and South America, to the Itameshi cuisine of Japan, the universal love of Italian cooking has seen it travel to every corner of the world, and reinterpreted wherever it went. That’s our Italy. Be it food or drink, our menus shine a light on overlooked classics and unexpected flavors that aim to reframe what it means to go out for Italian.
F. A. Q. ?!
Does Café Mars take walk-ins?
Absolutely! We are thrilled to have you as our guest, as long as there is enough space and time. We keep some tables and bar seating for walk-ins, so it’s always worth a try, particularly early in the night. In addition, our bar has an odd number of seats intentionally, to encourage a cherished activity of ours: solo walk-in dinner at the bar.
Can you modify my reservation for me?
We are a small team at Café Mars and do not have a dedicated reservationist. We kindly ask for changes in party size, time, or date to be modified in your Tock account under “Upcoming Reservations.” If that still doesn’t help, please call or email us.
Do you have vegetarian or vegan options?
At Café Mars, we love vegetables and they inspire much of our food. A good deal of the menu is, or can be made to be, vegetarian. That being said, Italian cooking leans heavily on dairy, eggs, and many other animal products, so we seldom have expressly vegan dishes available.
Do you have gluten-free options?
There are usually some dishes that happen to be or can be made to be gluten-free. But as the Italian kitchen is held together by gluten, we cannot always guarantee a wide range of gluten-free dishes. All of the pasta sauces can be made with a GF dried pasta.
Can I book a table for more than 6 people?
You sure can! That being said, we are a small restaurant with a small kitchen. Due to the layout of Café Mars, larger parties effectively become a semi-private event, filling the entire back room and have a dedicated server. In order to ensure the best possible experience for you, our staff, and the rest of the guests, larger parties are offered to choose from an array of set (but customizable) menus. And while we wish we could host large parties on short notice, the farther in advance you can let us know, the more likely we will have space. Less than two weeks is unlikely (but worth a try!), three or four weeks has a good chance, and over a month is a guarantee). To book or get more information, please drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Does Café Mars offer gift certificates?
Absolutely! We offer paper gift certificates in any amount. They can be picked up at the restaurant or mailed to you. It is also possible to simply pre-pay for someone’s meal over the phone by credit card. Either way, please send a message to email@example.com for more information.
Is Café Mars available for private events?
Are we ever?! Every night at Café Mars, we throw a party for all-comers. It’s the kind of party we love, but there are certainly constraints, like space, time and the unknown. Private events allow us to work with you to control all of these variables, and create a unique and memorable night for your party. For private events and buy outs, we ask for requests at least a month in advance to book on Wednesdays to Sundays, and at least two weeks in advance for Mondays and Tuesdays. Please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org us to set up a very special night at Café Mars!
Are you hiring?
We’re always looking to meet new people and hear new stories. Check out our jobs page to see If you think Café Mars might be a place for you. We can’t promise we will have an opening the day we talk, but who knows what the future will bring?!