Dinner Party Lands in Vacated Pequeña Space in Fort Greene

The exterior of 86 South Portland Avenue was being painted when Brownstoner stopped by. Photo by Craig Hubert

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A new restaurant is poised to take over a space from a beloved pandemic casualty in Fort Greene

A note posted on the front door at 86 South Portland Avenue says that the new restaurant will be called Dinner Party, and the owner and head chef’s name is Cami Jetta, who lives in the neighborhood. “The food is a little French, a little Californian, but I like to call it home cooking,” she writes. “The flavors will vary, but the food will always be like eating in the home of a friend who likes to experiment, but knows how to please a crowd.”

In an email, Jetta said they are planning a mid-May opening. Picnic sets will be served through the summer with an opening for full-service dinner in the fall, “once most people are vaccinated and the city’s restaurants are (hopefully) able to operate with some semblance of normalcy,” she added.

A note on the front door. Photo by Craig Hubert

The contents of one of their picnic baskets, according to their website, includes roast chicken, pickled hot peppers, sourdough toast and condiments, asparagus and lentil salad, rice pudding and cherries. The price is $16 per person.

Pequeña in 2017. Photo by Steve Sherman

This is Jetta’s first restaurant. “Dinner Party was born in Berkeley, California, where I went to college, though its roots go back even further — I grew up in a food-obsessed Italian-American family and spent two years studying abroad in France, where the act of sitting down to eat remains delightfully sacred,” she told Brownstoner.

She had been regularly hosting friends for dinner parties, she said, until the pandemic hit. It was then that the idea of a brick-and-mortar restaurant arrived. “I stayed in the city all of last year, watching so many independent restaurants close, seeing so many people leave, reading so many naysayers declaring the city dead,” Jetta said. “I wanted to play some part in proving that it’s very much alive. I wanted to declare: I’m not going anywhere.”

The space was previously occupied by Pequeña, a locally loved Mexican restaurant that closed in July 2020 after 14 years in operation. “We simply do not have the capability to fulfill the dining requirements for the current climate,” the restaurant’s owners said in an Instagram post announcing the closure. Before that, it was home to chef Ann Sealy’s Ms. Ann’s Southern Style Restaurant, which closed in 2000 after nearly 25 years in the same location following Ms. Sealy’s retirement.

“When I saw this space go up for rent — a beloved neighborhood spot, that has already housed two long-running women-led restaurants — it just felt serendipitous. I fell in love with it. I live five minutes away, and I knew it was [this space] or nothing.”

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