Dante at Genuine in Little Italy

dante at genuine

Despite the name, Little Italy has never been known for its Italian food. There are plenty of red sauce tourist traps that line the streets, but actually eating at one results in disappointment. Which is why I was excited to hear about Dante’s residency at Genuine on the corner of Mulberry and Grand. Dante is a neighborhood favorite in Greenwich Village that is known for its $10 “Negroni Sessions” happy hour and solid Italian cuisine. My go-to meal there is always a glass of the Americano cocktail and a plate of the wild boar ragu pappardelle.Read More

Bestia in Downtown LA

If you ask people from LA what their favorite restaurant is, Bestia seems to be the universal answer. And now it’s mine, too. I knew it from the moment I entered the hip, industrial warehouse in the middle of the up-and-coming Arts District in downtown LA and felt the energy of the crowd around me. Everyone is genuinely excited to be here and all those positive vibes rub off on you.Read More

West Village Italian at I Sodi

the bar at i sodi

The West Village excels at these small, charming restaurants that have the right combination of atmosphere and informality that make it perfect for a night out. Places like Little Owl or Pearl Oyster Bar come to mind as representative examples. Another restaurant that embodies the West Village spirit is I Sodi, an Italian place run by the duo that’s also behind Buvette and Via Carota, two other West Village spots that have the neighborhood charm down to a science. If you want perfected renditions of comforting Italian classics like cacio e pepe or lasagna in a picturesque, neighborhood setting, then this is the place for you. It’s small so reservations may be hard to come by, but if you pull up solo or with a friend or two at around 6, there should be some space at the bar.Read More

Casa Apicii

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It’s hard to pay attention to your food at Casa Apicii when there are big, flashy chandeliers hanging all over the ceilings. The space is so stunning in an ornate and overt kind of way, a throwback to the flash of the 80s and the early aughts. It’s quite a change from the casual and clean lines of the minimalist eateries that have been the trend lately. Maybe it’s the type of thing you see in the Midtown power lunch dining rooms. Or maybe the economy really is improving and lavish spending is making a comeback. Read More

Barano in Brooklyn

Italian restaurants are really having a moment in the city. A small, edited selection of small plates, pasta and pizza is now de riguer, and having a bowl of cacio e pepe almost seems obligatory. That’s the appeal of restaurants like Lilia, Perla and Pasquale Jones, and now there’s another one to add to the list, Barano in Brooklyn.

Barano, unfortunately, hasn’t perfected this rustic Italian food formula as well as its peers. It’s received so much good press that you might think it’s the one to beat, but it’s all hype. Barano is not the new Lilia as certain food critics might proclaim. It’s not even in the same league. It’s not as pretty, for one thing. Lilia is sleek and sophisticated, whereas Barano looks like an earth-toned Russian bath converted into a Cucina and Co. It doesn’t measure up in so many ways. Except for the house bread. That focaccia bread is what’s keeping this place alive.

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grilled zucchini with stracciatella, ramps and peppers
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21-day dry-aged meatballs with herb ricotta

If homestyle Italian cooking is your forte, you’ve got to kill it with the meatballs. Barano didn’t quite do that, but they made a good effort. The thing holding the meatballs back was how uncharacteristically squishy they were, having a texture similar to fish balls, which threw me off. I was looking forward to the grilled zucchini, expecting something warm and charred, but what arrived was an odd hodge podge of hot fried pieces with cold grilled ones and some random pieces of straciatella that didn’t seem to know what to do with themselves. It was like I was eating some sort of prep for a vegetable dish that didn’t quite make it to the final step.

cutting our own pizza, the bosicaolo with mushrooms, pancetta, mozzarella and pecorino. fun...
cutting our own pizza, the bosicaolo with mushrooms, pancetta, mozzarella and pecorino. fun…
bucatini with rabbit ragu
bucatini with rabbit ragu

The lowest point, and in some ways most comical part, of our dinner was when our pizza arrived, and our server said that we got to cut our own pizzas with a pair of shears, as if that were some sort of selling point. No one likes cutting their own pizza, you want someone else to cut it into symmetrical triangles for you. Plus the pizza wasn’t even worth all that effort. It was way overcooked, reducing the crust to cardboard, and something about the toppings was so salty. The server offered to bring us another pie, a gesture I appreciated, but it had already taken so long for our original order to arrive, so we declined. Too bad we couldn’t rely on the bucatini pasta as backup, which was just cold and sad…

grandmother's cannoli
grandmother’s cannoli
baba au rhum cake
baba au rhum cake

The server was so proactive in trying to win us over after the pizza debacle, so he earns some points for that. He offered us some desserts on the house, the cannoli and the baba au rhum cake. The cannoli recipe was passed down by Chef Albert Di Meglio’s grandmother, a very sweet and loving gesture that got its point across in the flavors. While the free desserts were good, they weren’t enough to buy our love. There are so many places doing food like this, and unfortunately the way Barano stands out is by how they don’t measure up to the others.


Barano
26 Broadway (between Kent Ave and Wythe Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11249
(347) 987-4500