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For Vito, there is life — and food — after Cono’s

The Brooklyn Paper
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Assemblyman Vito Lopez’s loss is every Williamsburg restaurant’s gain.

The lawmaker with the gourmet tastes lost his favorite restaurant — Cono’s on Graham Avenue — in September, but since then, he’s been spreading the wealth beyond his former red-sauce clubhouse.

Lopez and his political advisers spent $1,865 dining at several neighborhood restaurants, according to state campaign filings, in the months since Cono’s closed.

But there is obviously life after Cono’s, especially at Nina’s Restaurant, Life Café, Joe’s Busy Corner, Vicky’s Restaurant, and Fajita Sunrise, where Lopez and his team have dined several times.

Clearly, he prefers to stick to familiar Italian and American bistros instead of spicy Asian-fusion and fat-laden Southern foods offered at other establishments in his district.

Lopez’s campaign spent $3,920 during a political event last August at Nina’s Restaurant, a cozy Italian diner on Meeker Avenue, as well as $236 in two visits later that fall. Nina’s is hardly a stranger to the lawmaker, who has hosted fundraisers at the joint for the past decade.

“Vito’s been coming to our restaurant since we opened,” said one waitress. “I know he likes gnocchi with broccoli and shrimp, and chicken caprese, which is a house specialty.”

Lopez has also filled out a $526 order at sandwich shop Joe’s Busy Corner and brought a crowd to the vegetarian-friendly Life Café on Flushing Avenue twice, spending $316 — perhaps a sign that Lopez is eating more healthfully after undergoing extensive cancer treatments last year.

Life Café’s manager Andy Mills couldn’t recall what Lopez had to order but recommended the Life Salad which comes with steamed vegetables, tofu, tahini dressing and rice and beans.

“That’s one of the more popular healthy options we offer,” said Mills.

Of course, no restaurant could ever fully replace Cono’s in Lopez’s stomach. He and his campaign spent $3,758.33 on 12 meals there this summer, and he has long treated the place as an office, entertaining aspiring politicos including Sen. Hillary Clinton and wannabe senators Caroline Kennedy and Harold Ford. He also hosted fundraisers for protégés, such as Councilman Steve Levin (D–Greenpoint).

Lopez can’t keep away from the Italian cooking of his childhood forever.

He has been spotted eating by himself at Bamonte’s Restaurant on Withers Street — one of the oldest family-run establishments in Williamsburg.

And owner Laura Bamonte promises to make anything Lopez wants — with a low-fat twist!

“We have grilled chicken, salads, fish, broiled flounder,” said Bamonte. “That’s all healthy.”

Updated 5:23 pm, July 9, 2018: Includes updated amount of money that Lopez's campaign committee spent at Cono's before its demise.
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