Nick and I are rekindling our romance with Italian cuisine.
We have an on again off again relationship with cuisine from the boot. We adore it when we’re there. Eating until it hurts. Then we come back to the states and have a few bad Italian American experiences (I’m recalling more than a few soup-like eggplant dishes and some shoe leather meat-like-substances) and swear off the cuisine all together. But every once in a while an Italian restaurant comes along that makes us starry eyed and weak in the knees. And without warning there we are again, head over heels in love. Al Di La Trattoria…ti amo.
They don’t take reservations for small parties so you’ll almost certainly have to wait for you table. Don’t let this dissuade you. Some folks choose to have a glass of wine around the corner at the restaurant’s wine bar but if you’re like Nick and I’d you’ll be much happier across the street at the High Dive. Grab a cheap drink, enjoy the dive-y atmosphere and wait for the restaurant to call you for your table. See? The evening is already off to a great start.
When you sit down order some wine and attack the menu the way it was meant to be enjoyed…which is to say…a bit of everything. Nick and I are a crazy combination of frugal and gluttonous so at times like this when we want to order a starter, a pasta and a main course we put our selfishness aside and share. The prices at Al di La allow you to get a bit of everything without breaking the bank.
Al Di La’s menu leans towards the heavy side in a fantastic way with Northern Italian influences like potatoes, braised meats, polenta and a touch of offal. Although we really wanted to start with the tripe stew ($13) or perhaps the oxtail and cuttlefish ($11) we decided to start off as light as possible with the beef carpaccio ($11). Perhaps a huge plate of sliced raw beef doesn’t seem light to you but go with me on this.
The carpaccio was delicious in it’s simplicity. The beef was seasoned lightly and had the perfect combination of acid and salt. Sometimes I’m surprised at how simple dishes, when done right, can almost transform your view of an ingredient.
Next we dove head first into the pasta course with the tagliatelle al ragu($16). I was in the mood for a fresh pasta and a hearty, meaty sauce and this hit the nail on the head. Perfectly chewy pasta was coated with a hearty pork ragu. I try to create a dish similar to this time and time again with good results, but nothing like this. I still can’t get my sauce to coat the pasta to the point of almost melding the two into one. That, to me, is an art form. The portion was perfectly sharable and a great introduction to our secondi.
Ahhhh calf liver. I think it’s one of the most underrated proteins out there. Al Di La prepared it Venetian style($19), which from now on is what I consider to be the only way to cook it. Most people would think that a heaping plate of liver is just too much. Those people haven’t had this dish. The liver was cooked to perfection then bathed in a velvety and rich gravy. It was served with nicely charred pieces of grilled polenta which helped soak up even more of that intense sauce. I don’t say this often, but I think it was a perfect dish.
Nick ordered the pork saltimbocca($20) which surprised me a bit considering there was a braised rabbit on the menu, but when it came out there was no doubt it was a good choice. Cooked with sage and prosciutto and served with sautéed potatoes it was a hearty dish with great balance.
We opted out of dessert and Nick got a very nice espresso instead. Then we slowly strolled (maybe it was a waddle at this point) through park slope towards home, basking in our rekindled Italian romance.
Service was spot on. They were pretty quick with the courses but also left enough time to enjoy each one. The wine selection was good. Maybe even a little too good for us. We chose a modestly priced bottle and enjoyed the heck out of it. The ambiance is romantic, intimate and dimly lit. No reservations, but like I said earlier, give the High Dive across the street a shot for a pre-dinner drink.
Note: The pictures don’t do the food justice. The lighting was dim, making for great ambiance, but not great picture taking.