Carroll Gardens navigates the terrain between trendy and retro with cutting-edge shops, bistros, and cocktail lounges amiably coexisting alongside old-school butcher shops, coffee roasters, and bakeries owned by Italian-American families. Italians began moving into this area in the late 1800s and have lived here for so long that the neighborhood's early-19th-century Irish roots are but a dim memory. One Irish-era legacy current residents appreciate, though, are the spacious front-yard gardens of homes, most notably the "Place" blocks, 1st through 4th, between Henry and Smith streets. These verdant patches lend the neighborhood the "Gardens" half of its name, initiated by real estate agents in the 1960s, when redevelopment commenced. Carroll Gardens is often linked with Boerum Hill and Cobble Hill to the north, sometimes via the ungainly shorthand BoCoCa, and their main retail and dining arteries, Smith and Court streets, perform the same function here. Recent-arrival Manhattanites and French expats have infused the neighborhood with a Parisian–West Village vibe that pairs well with the longtime residents' workaday nonchalance. Stroll down either Court or Smith, and you'll discover that the sum of these sensibilities adds up to an agreeably greater whole.
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