Sunday, May 21, 2006
Just what il dottore ordered...
Thursday night, our friend La Dolce Vita flew in from San Francisco. We set our sights on Locanda Vini e Olii for a few reasons: a) its close by b) La Dolce Vita loves Italian food & culture (so do I) c) we would be eating late, and Italians are good at the eating late thing.
Locanda is a wonderful outpost on this side of DeKalb. It sits on a quiet dark corner, beckoning you to come into its warmth and friendliness. A round of heartfelt "Bouna Sera!"'s greeted us as we entered. There was a festive group in the front, enjoying a long meal with lots of wine. We were seated near the tempting desserts towards the back of the renovated pharmacy. It is a beautiful space with dark woods, shining pieces in the polished cases, warm lights and wonderful aromas from the kitchen which mingle with the smells of the fresh made espressos at the bar.
The menu changes according to the fresh ingredients available. It also states right up front that one is expected to eat a "typical" Italian meal (of antipasti, secondi and primi piatti), and the servings for each round were therefore compensated to allow one to enjoy all of the courses. For me, the cost of the dishes (and the vegetarianism) would give me pause in ordering that much food. Luckily having attempted the typical Italian meal on more than a few occasions while in Italy, I knew that I wouldn't need that much food even if the portions were smaller. (I love to eat food, just not in mass quantities - ask me about Vegas and my tasting menu experiences some time).
La Dolce Vita, G-pup and I shared the fresh bruschetta platter for our antipasti (one of tomato & basil, one of eggplant, one mushroom puree and one chicken liver which none of us would eat). They were all fresh and full of the flavors of the vegetables presented upon each of them.
We followed the antipasti with a round of salads, Dolce had the Beets and Young Pecorino Salad: a scrumptious mix of beets, pecorino, baby spinach and pears. I went for the Dried Sicilian Figs and Gorgonzola (of course I would) which was a taste party of figs, gorgonzola, baby lettuce and walnuts. With an ample handful of figs and large gorgeous slabs of gorgonzola, this was a dreamy salad. G-pup went for the Farro di San Giovani, a grain salad of yellow fin tuna, black olives, tomato, basil and farro. (He seemed to like it, cleared the plate and I couldn't get more of a description from him, maybe I can get him to comment).
For the main part of the meal we all opted for pastas - Dolce and I took the suggestion of the waitress (with the impeccable Italian accent) and had the Maltagliate (badly cut) L'Erbette. They were large sheets of pasta playing around (not swimming - a more perfect amount) in an olive oil and fresh herb sauce (I am forgetting the ingredients here). It was quite a different flavor - green and fresh and very tasty. A truly unique pasta dish (which is what the waitress had promised). G-pup had fresh and fluffy gnocchi with tomato and basil.
Having sat next to the desserts, we were tempted enough to leave some room in our tummies for a sampler of flourless chocolate cake (a little too crumbly for our tastes) and lemon pie (which wasn't remarkable in any way), but the fantastic grappa that I had for dessert more than made up for what was missing in the dishes.
Locanda is a real treat to have in the neighborhood, if I had loads of money (which I don't) I think I would split my time between there and Ici. It felt distinctly and beautifully Italian, and the food was interesting, fresh, and flavorsome.
Locanda Vini e Olii
129 Gates Avenue at Cambridge Place
Hours: Tue-Thu 6-10 pm
Fri-Sat 6-11 pm;
Sun: 6-10 pm
All major credit cards
Other reviews: New York Magazine, NYC Pulse, Village Voice, CitySearch, MenuPages, EatingForBrooklyn, New York Times, New York Eating, L Magazine, Chowhound, Dodgeball, Village Voice Best Of, New York Magazine Brooklyn Episode