The #MeToo movement has hit the culinary industry pretty hard, bringing down many celebrity chefs in its path, with Mario Batali probably being the most famous face among them. I was curious to see if any of his restaurants had been noticeably impacted since those sexual harassment allegations came to light, but it seems to have been minimal, as a recent visit to Babbo showed that it is just as popular as ever. While Babbo is still in demand, its clientele has changed noticeably. 10 years ago you were guaranteed a celebrity sighting, like when I saw Val Kilmer sitting at the table next to me or when I noticed the lead actor from My Name is Earl at another. Now you’re just rubbing elbows with out-of-towners or an old finance guy trying to impress a young, bored girl in the most stereotypical way (hint: involves talking about his money).Read More
Do you remember eating from the pasta bar in the dorm cafeteria during your college years? Remember how you’d scoop out either plain spaghetti or penne noodles and then choose between a tomato or an alfredo sauce? So that’s what the pasta dishes at Sola Pasta Bar in Soho remind me of, which is pretty disappointing considering that a former Michelin-star chef from Italy is behind the operations.Read More
Are you a Millennial who’s into wellness brands and likes her pasta served in a shade of fluorescent pink? Then The Sosta, the new fast-casual pasta restaurant from the minds behind By Chloe, is the perfect place for you. On the corner of Mott and Kenmare St, the bright lights of the restaurant invite you in to consider their Italian offerings. The dishes have catchy names, mixing familiar faces like bolognese and vodka sauce with interesting pasta options like gemelli and zucca. And the pasta tastes healthier than what you would get at the nearby red sauce joints in Little Italy, and an added plus is that you can get the pasta gluten-free or even zucchini noodle-based.Read More
Add Faro to the long, growing list of Brooklyn restaurants that specialize in seasonal, farm-to-table ingredients. But aside from the familiar converted warehouse aesthetic and a hip clientele, Faro stands out from the rest with its focus on handmade pasta, and more importantly, its newly earned Michelin star. Neighborhood restaurants in Brooklyn are a dime a dozen, but Michelin-vetted ones are harder to come by. And an affordable one at that, in which most of the items on the menu are priced at $20 or below.Read More
Lilia, Missy Robbins’ new Italian restaurant in Williamsburg, is like the most popular girl in school. She has all the right friends–the New York Times gave her three stars while Eater awarded her two–and she is of course very pretty. The former auto body-shop on Union Ave was converted to a lovely, spacious loft style restaurant with great lighting and a sleek bar that is all very nice to look at. And not only is she pretty, she’s super nice! The staff receives you warmly as if you truly had a seat at the table, not as if you were lucky to get in at all, which is so not Brooklyn. She is, on paper, pretty perfect.
I knew I should like Lilia, but I couldn’t help thinking that everyone seemed to be looking at her through rose colored glasses. Oh the pasta, everyone raved, you can’t go wrong whether you order rigatoni or the papardelle. So on that recommendation, I ordered the sheeps milk cheese filled agnolotti and the malfadini, and I was ready to be blown away. The agnolotti did take my breath away, mostly by how much saffron was in there. It was like someone threw in a whole jar of saffron onto the plate. The flavor of the saffron was so pronounced and distracting that I couldn’t even really tell what else was in the pasta. I can only say it was interesting, and that’s a word you use when you have nothing nicer to say.
I was relieved to find that the malfadini was actually good, not interesting good. The al dente noodles were generously coated in what seemed like butter and cheese, and the staccato of pink peppercorns was a nice accent to this simple dish. Cacio e pepe, mac and cheese, the malfadini continued the winning tradition of combining carbs and melted cheese in a comforting, satisfying fashion. And it was so fun to eat. Squiggly like ramen noodles and crinkle cut fries. Playing with food was never so fun.
The appetizers we ordered weren’t bad, but I felt like with each one I was waiting for something more. Like a missing punchline to a joke or an invitation to a party that never came. The cacio e pepe fritelle, a fried cheese ball that resembled a popover and a gougere, wasn’t exponentially better than an hors d’oeuvres at a really nice cocktail party. Even more disappointing was the very fancy sounding bagna cuda, which turned out to be mostly uncooked vegetables served with a warm balsamic dressing-like dipping sauce. I was hoping for some grilled robust veggies, but instead I was like a rabbit gnawing through raw turnips and parsnips. To be fair, there were a few pieces like the roasted caramelized carrot that were pretty stunning, but moments like that were rare. The cured sardines, on the other hand, I couldn’t really complain about. I do like fishy fish, so be warned that these sardines are pretty strong, despite the dose of citrus.
The olive oil cake with blood orange was a pleasant enough end to the meal, but I’ve had better olive oil cakes elsewhere. I wondered if I was being a hater, one who was jealous of Lilia and was finding any reason to pick her apart. But the couple from Toronto next to me didn’t seem to be all that impressed either, and everyone knows Canadians are so nice. Maybe it’s time for Lilia to take a break from the fanboys and spend time with people who can keep it real with her with some constructive criticism.
567 Union Ave (corner of North 10th and Union Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11211