“There is more to New York than New York,” the NYC subway advertisement read, while I sat on the C-Train, traveling downtown to Clinton Avenue in Brooklyn.
On Wednesday, March 5th, I trekked to a literary event at St. Joseph’s College, and strolled along gazing at magnificent mansions, marvelous apartment buildings and beautiful brownstones. After the event, I walked towards the subway station in low 26 degree weather, thinking of coffee to take with me on the train. I saw a restaurant, I entered and glanced at the pizza and the pleasing smiles, I glimpsed at the distinctive copper on the walls, and guessed I was in a special place.
And I was.
Emily is located at 919 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, New York 11238. It was more than just the smell of fresh pizza from Emily’s wood-fired copper oven, the gourmet gastronomy meals displayed on the tables or the passionate sounds of laughter; it was the dreamy fragrance of—summertime cool.
There I was surrounded by the smell of bread in a community that was new to me, still so close to Manhattan, that I quickly, asked, “do you serve coffee to go?”
“No,” the friendly lady said. “We would be happy to serve you at one of our tables or at the bar.”
“Oh, I wish I could stay, but I just left an event at St. Joseph’s College and am now headed uptown.”
“I’m Emily,” she said, “please come again.”
“I will, and I would love to interview you for my Catch It blog,” I replied, before opening the door.
“That would be great,” Emily returned, and waved good-bye.
A week later, in the afternoon, I interviewed Emily Hyland.
I simply love the copper throughout the restaurant; could you talk about the design of your restaurant?
When Matt, my husband, and I were designing the restaurant, we really wanted to give a sense of warmth in the space and make it feel homey. And in both of our parents’ homes while we were growing up there had been a lot of “copper accent” and that sort of thing, and so we decided to go with the same sort of tones. That’s why you see the oven plated in copper and the bar; we each have a lot of unique items in copper.
What would you say is the atmosphere here at Emily’s Restaurant?
Emily is a warm, inviting place with a neighborhoody ambience. We wanted it to be very much a home-away-from-home for all intents and purposes, a reflection of what our dining room and kitchen would be like if it would be on a grand scale like this. Such as the iron, the copper and organic materials that have a sense of making people feel comfortable.
How many guests can the restaurant accommodate?
With the bar, we can accommodate thirty-seven and additionally six people at the “Chef’s Table” in the rear of the restaurant, which is in the kitchen area.
What do you feel about the community here in Brooklyn?
We love this community; our neighbors are great; it is fun having a business here. Next door is “Levels Barbershop.” They come over to eat pizza, drink and chat, and we visit their business too…and sometimes borrow tools. It’s great meeting people in the neighborhood; we have regulars who come and it’s been a marvelous opportunity for developing relationships.
Do you need reservations to dine at Emily?
We don’t take reservations, it is walk-in only; we do take reservations for the “Chef Table” which is an off-menu tasting (parties up to six at $75.00 a head).
What is your most popular pizza?
I think our most popular pizza…actually is: The Colony (sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, pickled chilis, and honey); and Emily (mozzarella, taleggio, pistachios, truffle sottocenere, and honey). They are both really good.
How did you and Matt decide to open up a restaurant?
It has always been a dream of ours. Essentially, we have been together since we were 18 years old; we met in college and have been together ever since. And Matt has always known he wanted to be in the culinary world. Our first meal together was pizza and I guess it set the tone for the future.
What would you say to people who may not want to explore Brooklyn?
We are not too far from Manhattan; you can take the C-Train (to Clinton Avenue; stay in the last subway car if you are traveling from Manhattan). As soon as you exit the train station, Emily is a few feet away. We are trying to establish ourselves as a pizza destination as much as we are a neighborhood place. We are serious about our pizza. Our mozzarella cheese is made in-house by hand; we mix our dough by hand, and so there is a lot of love.
Matt is the executive chef. The menu is all Matt—his genius, his hard work and his research. He is just very talented; I say that as a wife and an admirer of his food, as well. I am in charge of operations, and I love interacting with our customers.
What is your biggest challenge in being an entrepreneur?
Finding the balance, being able to separate our conversations, especially as husband and wife, so that we are not talking about the restaurant 100% of our time. We go out to dinner and find other aspects of our life to talk about, committing to that personal time together.
Is there one compliment you can share with us by a customer that describes Emily’s Restaurant?
A week ago a new customer came for dinner. He said what a special experience he and his girlfriend had here. He mentioned “the whole ambience here—from the meal, the welcoming environment, the entire tone of the place.” He was very pleased and we appreciated his kind words. Because I think one of the fundamental parts of our mission is that we want it to be a genuinely nice experience, a combination of awesome food and service.
We are informal and friendly, professional and hardworking, and when all those parts come together-it is a whole and well-rounded experience.
Thank you Emily and Matthew Hyland.
Catch it if you can at www.pizzalovesemily.com.