Dennet Place has also, for the last century or so, been home to a tight-knit collection of Italian-American families that liken the lane to a separate enclave within Carroll Gardens. They call it Cat’s Alley, which includes one of the streets bounding Dennet Place, Nelson Street. No one knows how it got that nickname or why the doors are so small. And no one seems to recall a Dennet or know why the name is sometimes spelled with two T’s.
A few of the old Italian-American families remain, but the lane retains, despite rapid gentrification in the area, a sense of community. People keep copies of each other’s keys; they appear unannounced at one another’s homes for food and conversation. A local couple was married on the block years ago, and every Memorial Day weekend since at least the mid-1980s, it has been the scene of a block party for the Cat’s Alley people.
The block party was in full swing on Sunday, with Frank Sinatra crooning from speakers and cones blocking both entrances to the street. Tables were set under a long tent. Joe Dunn, 52, prepared the seafood, Marie DeFiore, 80, the pasta; Michael Mari, 71, and Rocco Scarantino, 54, dubbed by some the mayors of the street, handled the meat. “When you show up, you know to bring some food and a six-pack of beer at your side,” said Dee Scarantino, 57, Mr. Scarantino’s wife.