Welcome back to The Bite, Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

Pastrami. Just the word evokes a certain time, a certain place. I think of the Lower East Side with Katz’s or the Second Ave Deli; not Sheepshead Bay Road. So imagine my surprise when I saw a hand-written sign in front of Taste of Romania Europa Bistro (1652 Sheepshead Bay Road) touting their “in-house smoked pastrami.”

With a sense of excitement I entered the restaurant. But, wait a minute. Looking around I wondered if I made a mistake. The restaurant, housed in the old La Sorrentina space, still looked like the same old pizza joint. The glass cases on the counter still displayed a variety of pizzas. The pizza ovens still loomed as large sentinels behind. In fact, a pizza was being removed from the oven as I approached.

So what gives? Where’s the steam table? Where’s the smoker? Where is the pastrami?

Turns out the pastrami was there, just not front and center. Like many a treasure, you’ll need to seek this pastrami out. This pastrami is not on display; it’s kept hidden away in a special back room, until it’s needed. It is then cut to order and heated in the pizza ovens until warm.

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Just before noon today, an accident involving three cars left at least one person injured on Avenue X and Ocean Parkway.

According to our tipster, ShadowLock, three cars were affected, with the airbags deployed on two vehicles. One person was seen being taken to an ambulance on a stretcher.

The photos show one car pushed into oncoming traffic, with its driver’s side bashed in. The other shows an SUV that had it’s front bumper and driver side wheel ripped off.

As of 12:15 p.m., fire trucks and emergency responders are still on the scene, blocking off a significant amount of traffic, and causing delays for several blocks in every direction.

Source: uaff.info

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has issued an Air Quality Health Advisory for Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and The Bronx until 11:00 p.m. tonight. That means all the pollutants that we New Yorkers persist in calling “air” are getting stirred up with the heat and humidity, elevating the Air Quality Index (AQI) of the five boroughs to 101, more than double what would be considered “normal.”

What’s the AQI, anyway? Well, the DEC’s website puts it thusly:

The AQI is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. It was created as an easy way to correlate levels of different pollutants to one scale; the higher the AQI value, the greater the health concern. When levels of ozone and/or fine particles are expected to exceed an AQI value of 100, an Air Quality Health Advisory is issued alerting sensitive groups to take the necessary precautions.

This means that all the fine particles that shoot out the end of your cars, float up from your barbecue grills, creep away from your cigarettes, or otherwise take to the air are reacting with the sunlight, heat and moisture to weigh on your lungs. So if you’re sensitive to that kind of stuff – and that means anyone with lung disease, such as asthma – you should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.

Really, the takeaway here is that you’ve got a damn good excuse to chill out in some air conditioning. Feel free to print out today’s AQI forecast and tell your boss that going to the Post Office for him can actually kill you. Then spend that time surfin’ around Sheepshead Bites.

If you’re even marginally observant, I’m sure you’ve noticed that Sheepshead Bay Road and Emmons Avenue (and, now, Kings Highway) are lined with large, black antique-style street lamps. Note the “-style,” since they’re not actually antiques, but replicas installed about a decade ago to beautify the roadway. The originals can be seen in the photo above, taken in 1959 (and up for grabs on eBay).

Of course, unlike the street lamps, there are a lot of things in this photo that are still around. Or at least their shells are. The building that once housed the theater (anyone know the name of it?) is now Bally’s, and almost all the buildings in the foreground are still the buildings that line the road today. They just happen to be filled with sushi and cell phone shops, which, I’m sure, really would’ve bugged people out in 1959.

In fact, let’s do a side-by-side comparison, courtesy of Google Maps, of Sheepshead Bay Road (before the new monstrosity at 1733 Sheepshead Bay Road) and see just how little it has changed.

Keep reading, and see the side-by-side photo.

They don’t look so happy to me. Photo by Erica Sherman.

Michael Levitis Marina Levitis Rasputin Brighton Beach Show

Michael and Marina Levitis, two of Russian Dolls' stars (Source: James Edstrom)

Lifetime’s newest show, the Brighton Beach-themed reality series Russian Dolls, is taking another round of flack as Russian leaders zero in on the new title, saying it’s synonymous with one of their community’s bugaboos: escort services.

You might be more familiar with the show’s working title, Brighton Beach, which was originally conceived as a Russian-American response to MTV’s Jersey Shore. The concept was eventually rejected by MTV and picked up by Lifetime. First, some Russian leaders expressed concern the show might depict the community as a bunch of opulent, vodka-swilling party animals. Others defended Lifetime, taking at face value the A&E-owned network’s assertion that it would be a “multigenerational cast … [chronicling] several colorful families, with the show’s action centered on a popular local nightclub.” And their faith stayed firm after Sheepshead Bites revealed that the show would focus on the family of Rasputin owner Michael Levitis, who was recently caught up in an FBI probe allegedly acting as a middleman in a bribery scheme involving State Senator Carl Kruger.

But the name may be beyond the pale. “Russian Dolls” is a term frequently used to advertise Russian escort services and prostitution fronts, a detail not overlooked by the community’s leaders.

“It’s the most ugly name I’ve ever heard,” said Raisa Chernina, director of the Be Proud Foundation, a non-profit with roots in the Russian-American community. “The name speaks for itself. Russian Dolls is a very polite way of saying escorts.”

“They told me it was Russian Dolls and I said ‘My God.’ It’s like those Danielle Steel books,” Chernina added.

Russian Dolls: How are other Russian-American leaders reacting? Pretty much the same way. Keep reading.

A public restroom in Coney Island. Source: Flickr/Zach K

Remember a few years ago, when Sheryl Crow was proposing, over at HuffPo, that “a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting?” Well, welcome to Coney Island 2011, brothers and sisters, because Ms. Crow’s fantasy — considered by most so radical that even the liberally like-minded Rosie O’Donnell opposed the idea — is now our reality:

The city is so hard up for cash that it’s rationing toilet paper in women’s public restrooms — to the point where bathroom attendants are doling out a few measly squares per patron — along the world-famous Coney Island boardwalk.

… Beachgoers also have been forced to line up for their paltry allotment of the city’s cheap, single-ply toilet paper at the boardwalk’s other women’s restroom at Stillwell Avenue.

… The Parks Department refused to say how much it budgeted for toilet paper and other supplies, with a spokeswoman saying only, “Bathroom supplies are stocked daily, and our budget for these supplies is consistent.”

Sheepshead Bites’ own Ned Berke reports that, when he was there on Saturday, “They were not ‘rationing’ out the TP. There simply was none. Period.”

What else is there to say when decent, hard-working American beach-goers want to enjoy a simple Fourth of July weekend, with sunshine and cool ocean breezes over at the beach, and they cannot even properly wipe themselves at a public bathroom when nature inevitably calls? How is Brooklyn supposed to be the best city in the world when we have stuff like this going on?

I don’t know about you, but I cannot help but imagine how this scenario, of bathroom attendants meting out limited TP squares per customer, plays out in reality. Does a person who needs to drop a deuce have to actually disclose that very personal information in order to secure a few extra squares?

It’s just plain ridiculous. And we have Sheryl Crow to blame.

When we told you about the Pop-Up Piano at Marine Park’s Salt Marsh Center - on Avenue U and East 33rd Street – we asked readers to send in videos of themselves playing at the piano. We weren’t sure what we were going to get. Would it be 5-year-olds playing Chopsticks? A lovely couple mashing the keys for some fun? Or would we get a virtuoso giving an impromptu performance?

Luckily for us, the first videos that came in were from the latter. Professional pianist Mikhail Pais hit up the hidden venue to play some Chopin and Tchaikovsky to an audience of birds and grass.

Pais is a classical pianist born in Odessa, Ukraine and raised in Sheepshead Bay. A graduate of LaGuardia Arts High School, and attendee of the Boston Conservatory, he currently studies at the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music. As recently as June 26, Pais played the Davidzon Radio Theater Hall, performing pieces from Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Schubert and others. You can find more about Pais at his website.

Of course, you should also check out the videos above and below, to see his stunning performance at the Salt Marsh Center.

Oh, and this doesn’t mean the rest of you would-be pianists are off the hook. Don’t worry if you don’t stack up against Pais – we still want videos of your 5-year-old playing Chopsticks.

See Pais’ second Salt Marsh Pop-Up Piano video.

Three-day weekends rule! Mine was as perfect as any weekend could be and included heavy rations of friends, family, fireworks, flushes and full houses. We played so much poker — for chips, since who could afford to lose money in this economy? — that I’m seeing cards in my dreams. It was my first time playing and I ended up getting five full houses Saturday night, four of a kind at one point on Sunday (nice!), and last night — a straight flush, the approximate odds of which are 72,192.33 : 1. I almost fell off my chair.

So, how’d you guys and gals spend your weekend?

Photo by Arthur Borko.

Two peopled were injured and the Sleepy’s storefront at 2484 Flatbush Avenue was smashed to pieces when a car accident threw one vehicle through the business on Saturday. A few readers on the scene sent in photos, and Sheepshead Bites freelancer Heather Chin drove by shortly after.

Read reader accounts of the accident, and view a gallery of photos.