What can I say about the infamous Fortunato Brothers located on Manhattan Avenue and Devoe Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn? How infamous is this Italian family who originate from Naples, Italy?
Let’s just say that when they make the New York Daily News it’s not a story about cappuccinos, marzipan or pastries. (Although, these items are quite delicious and infamous in their own right.)
This is Marzipan shaped into differnt fruits. It’s a sweet textured almond pastry.
The pastry chefs in the back are so talented. You name it they’ve probably made it with marzipan. One year, Antonio the marzipan master walked over to me and said, “We have lunch in the back, come get some hot dogs.” I thought this was very strange because all the years I had painted their windows no one ever offered me lunch. So I walked back to the kitchen to get one. Hot dogs and french fries drizzled with ketchup were lined up on the table.
I reached over to grab one and he started laughing at me. It was his maripan masterpiece that year-hot dogs and french fries. I should have taken it and eaten it anyways but I didn’t. Antonio left last year and opened a bakery in downtown Brooklyn. I have yet to get down there and paint his windows.
You can see the windows from both the inside and the out. I like when the sun hits them. They seem to glow.
The first time I painted at their Patisserie was in December of 1992. I had just finished graduate school at the New York Academy of Art. Wow that seems like decades ago, wait, it is!
This year was the first time I painted all 21 windows in two days instead of the usual three day affair. It took a couple of late nights and in the mornings on those days I pulled out my handy dandy crock pot so dinner was available when anyone back at the homestead got hungry.
Having known this family for two decades I have seen a lot of interesting things. I’ve seen the children of these dozen or so brothers grow up into adults. Some of them have followed in their parents footsteps and some do very different things.
Local customers have been drinking espressos and eating gelatos much longer than the 19 years I’ve been coming around. Charlie, the retired NYC Police Captain, faithfully drinks a cappuccino every morning. I hear how he gets hundreds of donations for the NYC Police toy drive every December.
Mike Fortunato, being the second youngest of the brothers, practically grew up with the many nieces and nephews of his older siblings. As long as I can remember he spoke of how he doesn’t want to have kids. This year I used a picture of his sixth month old son as a reference for the baby Jesus in the nativity scene and he’s getting married. I’m not sure how old he is but someone told me he’s 62 and another person told me he’s 56. Either way-you go Mike!
I enjoy coming up with new ideas every year. Their only request is Santa and the Nativity. I decided to do a “Winter Wonderland” theme on this year’s windows.
This is a daytime picture.
This is what it looks like at night. It felt kind of magical.
“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night”