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Gift Shopping, Italian Pastries and a Garden Stroll in Bay Ridge

Welcome to Perfect Saturday, a weekly Racked feature in which we outline the best places to shop and spend the afternoon in a particular neighborhood, starting with brunch and ending—who knows!

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This weekend, we're venturing into the outer realms of Brooklyn to check out Bay Ridge, a neighborhood that feels suburban and just a touch more relaxed than the rest of the borough, but still has thriving shopping and dining scenes. Bay Ridge is more than the stomping grounds of Tony Manero, though you'll be happy to find plenty of top-notch Italian pastry shops here. Stroll the parks for a bit of green, shop local home goods, and enjoy Third Avenue's retail scene, this way.

Brooklyn Beet Company (7205 Third Avenue) is a cozy farm-to-table haven tucked away in Bay Ridge. The fresh, hearty dishes here have an Eastern European slant: there's a "farmer cheese polenta" with spicy Hungarian goulash and eggs, German hash and bratwurst and latkes. A flatbread fried in egg custard batter with banana, Nutella and cinnamon mousse will satisfy any sweet tooth, and the burger is a fan favorite.

Bay Ridge's hub for trend-conscious shoppers is Lola's Boutique (8503 Third Avenue), a shop filled with dresses perfect for both parties and the office, as well as statement accessories and everyday jewelry. The aesthetic is low-key and polished with a cool twist—think black dresses with sheer panels, brocade blazers and beaded bracelets with tassel charms.

Think of Bookmark Shoppe (8415 Third Avenue) as your go-to for no-way-I'm-going-outside winter reading. Browse the concise but well-curated selection of books—including a $1 used book section—and also pick up supplies for knitting and crocheting. The store even offers classes if you need to brush up on your scarf/hat/sweater-making skills.

This & That Thrift Shop (7104 Third Avenue) is like the neighborhood's permanent, indoor flea market. Here, you'll find an eclectic mix of furniture, clothing, accessories, home goods, records and antiques, all at those appealing outside-Manhattan-thrift-store prices.

Handmade on Third (7815 Third Avenue) is just the kind of stop you want to hit while you're in that holiday gift time crunch. The store is stocked with jewelry, charming home goods, stationery, trinkets—the kind of selection from which you can find presents for all of those hard-to-shop-for people on your list, as well as a little something for yourself.

A neighborhood with a perfect blend of urban and suburban elements, Bay Ridge has plenty of green. One especially pretty patch of nature is Narrows Botanical Gardens (Shore Road between Bay Ridge Avenue and 72nd Street), an oasis with a lily pond, a zen garden, rose gardens and a plant sanctuary. There's also a host of birds to be seen, as well as roaming turtles in the ponds. The peaceful scenery is a worthwhile walk even on a brisk day.

With a delicious full-service café serving up dishes acclaimed by locals and a store up front selling home goods, HoM (8806 Third Avenue) is a must-visit stop on your Bay Ridge journey. Shop a vintage-inspired selection of jewelry, décor and kitchenware, or pick up a gourmet food basket. Refuel with coffee or a snack like Filipino empanadas before you leave.

You can't leave Bay Ridge without picking up some of the authentic Italian pastries lovingly made in the area, whether you're craving some sweet in that very moment or just want to take a bit of the neighborhood home. Stop at favorite spot Paneantico Bakery Cafe (9124 Third Avenue) and indulge in cannolis and sfogliatelle plus cinnamon cookies, mini pies and eclairs.

End the day by warming up with some wine at The Owl's Head (479 74th Street)—a spot that's been buzzed about since its 2011 opening. There is a wide selection of wine to try and someone always on hand to help you decide, and the light fare—cheese plates, rice balls, paninis, brownies—to accompany your drinks.

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