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Free Pasta in Bushwick?

How one Bushwick restaurant plans to give back to its neighbors

Marie’s, a new pasta spot on Wyckoff Ave, self-identifies as a “love letter to Bushwick.”

Chef and owner Miguel Trinidad opened the new restaurant in March, taking over the space that used to house the Caribbean restaurant Sally Roots. According to him, Marie’s is a love letter because its menu melds Italian dishes with the flavors that Bushwick residents know and love.

“If you walk up and down Wyckoff, Knickerbocker, you'll see that there's Ecuadorian restaurants, Dominicans, these all-Latino restaurants all around the neighborhood,” Trinidad told BK Reader. “So I wanted to take the flavors from these places and put it into the pasta.”

Those multicultural influences are visible all over the menu: there’s a Jamaican lamb ragu that gestures toward beef patties, a Cuban ropa vieja made from duck, even an Instagrammable raviolo filled with chopped cheese, the NYC bodega favorite. 

Customers dig into the chopped cheese raviolo at Marie's. Photo by Hannah Berman for BK Reader

Now, to encourage the Bushwick community to forge a connection with his new restaurant, Trinidad is hosting a free pasta night on the first Tuesday of every month. On free pasta nights, customers can come in for a free bowl of penne with their choice of two sauces — a dish that would cost $18–19 at Marie’s on normal nights.

Trinidad himself is from the Lower East Side, with family in Brooklyn. This free pasta night represents his effort to help neighbors feel more kindly about a new two-to-three dollar sign restaurant in a gentrifying Bushwick. 

“Unfortunately, gentrification is something that we have to live with. It's going to happen. The neighborhood is going to change,” Trinidad said. “This is why this pasta party is important to me, because it allows the community that's already here to experience something new. And it's important for me to hold on to the history of this neighborhood and what it is — a Latin-owned business, Afro-Latino — and showing the kids in the neighborhood that if I can do it, you can do it.”

Chef Miguel Trinidad opened Marie's in March. Photo by Hannah Berman for BK Reader

The inaugural episode of Free Pasta Night was this past Tuesday. Marie’s announced the promotion via an Instagram post, which reached an incredulous audience.

Roommates Ryan Cheam, Keegan Roeder, and John DePoy live nearby in Bed Stuy. Roeder saw that Marie’s had opened, and suggested they all go.

“We ended up canceling 'cause we were all exhausted, I think,” said Cheam. “And then I was looking through their Instagram and I saw every first Tuesday of the month, free pasta. So I was like, ‘Let's go on next Tuesday instead.’”

“I thought he was joking at first,” said Roeder. “I thought he just wanted all of us to go to Marie's ASAP.”

But no — there truly was free pasta. 

From left to right: roommates Ryan Cheam, Keegan Roeder, and John DePoy at Marie's. Photo by Hannah Berman for BK Reader

The event also welcomed in Bushwick community members like Orion Talley and his family. 

“I live on Bleecker Street and I was walking by and I saw a sign that said free pasta, and I was very intrigued,” said Talley. “So I came inside and was like, ‘What's the deal with the free pasta?’ And everyone seemed kind of confused, and they were like, ‘It’s free. That’s the deal.’”

Talley then passed the word around to get a large group out to Marie’s for the pasta party.

“Now we're all here eating food, pasta and also not free items, which I think is the intention,” Talley said. 

According to Trinidad, the event was a success. 

“A lot of people from the community came in, a few people from neighboring neighborhoods,” he said. “Not only did they get the free pasta, but they explored the menu. So it was exactly what I expected, or what I hoped it would be.”

Marie’s is located at 195 Wyckoff Ave. Its next free pasta night will be Aug 6, from 5–11pm. 

Hannah Berman

About the Author: Hannah Berman

Hannah Berman is a Brooklyn-born freelance writer. She writes about food, culture, and nonprofit news, and runs her own grumpy food newsletter called Hannah is Eating.
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