Friday, September 24, 2010

al di là

When in Park Slope, do as the Park Slopians do. Eat at al di là.

It's what my friend Ben suggested earlier this week, as an end cap to a long day of palate punishment on the wine trade tasting circuit. Following a quick beer at nearby Bierkraft, much needed to recharge the taste buds and attitude, it was just what the doctor ordered. Heed Ben's advice. I don't think you'll regret it

A view of the al di là dining room, snapped from right about where we were seated. There's not much more to it than that — three or four more tables perhaps, a small service area and a partial view into the kitchen. Relaxed, charmingly patinaed and casually intimate.
(Photo courtesy of Lauren Weinstein / joonbug.)

There's nothing terribly remarkable about the room, save perhaps the frightening aspect of the wild boar's head mounted above the kitchen entrance. Nothing terribly remarkable about the service, either; it's casual and efficient, befitting the space. What is remarkable is the quality of the food, and the satisfaction it brings.

From my primo of richly green, pillow-textured malfatti (swiss chard gnocchi) in a delicately browned sage-butter sauce; to a secondo of perfectly moist and tender braised rabbit (some of the best I've eaten), served over polenta with black olives; and even to our shared contorno of char-grilled escarole.... Everything I ate displayed a fine balance between rusticity and elegance, a great way to sum up the style at al di là (it means "beyond"), where a northern Italian focus is highlighted with dashes of southern flavor and technique.

I'm told that al di là has a very fair, gripe-free corkage program ($15 per/bottle) and there was a row of dead soldiers displayed on a shelf lining the main wall in testament to it — an empty bottle of Selosse's Substance among them. There's really no need to bring anything so exalted, though, at least not from the perspective of pairing and simple pleasure. The list at al di là may not be a geek's haven nor a trophy hunter's dream but it's peppered with plenty of solid choices, all of them priced quite fairly (especially from the perspective of this Philadelphian, who is all too used to 3x or higher markups). I'm not sure we could have come up with a better match to our meal than the 2009 Verduno Pelaverga from Commandatore G.B. Burlotto I selected from the list ($38), bright, fresh, floral and subtly peppery.

Every neighborhood should have such a place — a classic interpretation of the trattoria that makes one want to return again and again — but far too few do.

al di là trattoria
248 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Al di Là Trattoria on Urbanspoon


Judy said...

Love, love, love al di la! Let me know the next time you're in town and I'll show you Williamsburg!

TWG said...

Sounds like a Parker kind of place, Boar's head, natural wine. Was there a sommelier?

David McDuff said...

That sounds great, I absolutely will. So glad to know it's a place you dig, too.

Your timing is impeccable. I just finished reading that article (here) moments ago. I suspect there was a sommeliere but I think she was too busy cooking our dinners to ply us with recommendations for the enamel removers of the week.

Ben Wood said...

It was a great hang, and Al Di La is a great place to eat!! Thanks for coming up, and so glad that you enjoyed it!
I'd be curious as to places you recommend in Willy-B (I know one, Fada- which is not bad at all).

Judy said...

There are tons of great places to eat in Williamsburg.

El Almacen is amazing Argentinian with a beautiful waitstaff.

Sweetwater used to be a hole-in-the-wall punk bar, now it's the most consistently good restaurant in the neighborhood, in my opinion. Also, very reasonable.

Dumont is probably best known for their burgers and mac & cheese, but they're so much more. They were also one of the first places to hire actual professional waiters and waitresses—not the musician/painter/couldn't-be-assed-to-help-you types that used to staff restaurants around here. (Though with the influx of condos and rich people, they're mostly gone.)

Dressler is owned by the Dumont people and is stunning to look at and great for when you feel like dropping coin.

Diner and Marlow & Sons have well-earned reps for being high quality, but they're too crowded for me lately. Walter Foods has an intensely delicious raw bar and hey, Beyonce ate there.

Pates et Traditions is questionably decorated, but their crepes are outstanding. Fette Sau is the place to go for barbecue, though I loathe communal seating, so always get it to go.

I'm sure there are more that I'm forgetting, but that should keep you busy.

David McDuff said...

@Ben - Thank you for taking me there — had a great time.

@Judy - Did you say Beyonce? I'm so there.... Seriously, thanks a ton for stopping back and sharing your picks for dining in Wburg. Now I really can't wait to come for a visit.

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