Classic Tables: Joe's of Avenue U

Have some pasta with your bread crumbs at this Brooklyn institution

Joe's of Avenue U doesn't serve Italian food, it serves Sicilian–and if you don't know the difference, then you definitely haven't been to this Gravesend, Brooklyn, institution.

The primary distinction: bread crumbs. They're used as a stuffing, a crust and a liberal topping on the lion's share of the menu, and they should be an ordering guidepost for your meal.

After you take a booth (behind the flat-screen TV, so as not to block fans from the Palermo soccer game in progress), look to the seafood-heavy specials. Anchovies, when available, are a good starting place, as they're wrapped around a raisin-and-pine-nut-laden bread stuffing and drenched in unusually sweet lemon juice.

The menu, printed in English and Sicilian, offers classics like meatball subs and chicken Parmesan, but we recommend forgoing them for Sicilian specialties like the arancini (fried risotto balls). If you order them "special" style (pictured), they'll arrive at your table doused with red sauce, Parmesan and ricotta–a savory fried sundae. Or opt for the stuffed artichoke, swollen with bread-crumb filling and sitting in a pool of rich, garlicky broth.

Cod gets the bread-crumb treatment as well: The fish is crusted, bathed in a parsley-olive-oil sauce and served with escarole that is equal parts greens and garlic.

And then there's the signature pasta dish: spaghetti with sardines, wild fennel, raisins and pine nuts. You want grated cheese to put on top? Fuhgetabout it: No topping will do except a generous sprinkling of toasted bread crumbs.

We promise you won't need to reach for the breadbasket.

Joe's of Avenue U, 287 Avenue U (between McDonald Ave. and Lake St.), Brooklyn; 718-449-9285