- scene: Warm, cozy, and clean; large bar that would be suitable to eat at, and a cute little couch area for a pre/post drink
- sip: A selection of cocktails; well-rounded wine list, from the well-priced to the celebration libations
- savor: Yum...Proscuitto and mozz in phyllo; Cacio e Pepe; Amatriciana
- sit: With a date; with a friend or your family
- spend: $$
- address: 115 Berry Street (Brooklyn)
- phone number: (347) 763-2635
- website: anticapesa.com
I am not sure if it is due to a PR push or what, but Antica Pesa has been the “twerking” of the restaurant world this summer- something I had never heard of before that was suddenly everywhere. Madonna and other celebs have dined there, the critics have all been through, and apparently everyone else. I read the story, about how the restaurant in Rome has been a long time favorite dining destination of those in the know ( I vaguely remember the name from my Rome restaurant research in 2009), and now they opened an outpost in Brooklyn. There are a lot of good Italian restaurants in New York City, so I was naturally slightly skeptical of the hype, (my attempts at twerking were not successful), but all doubt in my mind vanished the second we walked in the door: Antica Pesa is really special and charming, in the most sincere and endearing way.
Antica Pesa is not trendy or trying too hard to be old-school- the atmosphere is classically inviting,a little slick, with warmly glowing lighting, exposed brick and a cute lounge area with a couch and a fireplace. Service from the begininig was friendly and efficient, but the Italian difference didn’t truly come out until we met our server, Sergio. Italian hospitality is casual, disarming, and accomodating, but the truly special characteristic is the charm, that twinkle in the eye- Sergio never lost it, even when politely suggesting that we ordered too much food. He added an extrension to our table so that we had enough room, and kept the courses coming. The wine list is approachable in both desciption and price- I find Italian wines to be very challening, but Antica Pesa had accurate and not ridiculous descriptions for each bottle (no “notes of sun-burnt bark from Sardinia” here). We found a delicious Valpociella Repasso for $60 that Sergio gleefully told us was from his region, and we had a lovely Bortolloti sparkling rose to start.
Charm and booze aside, the food at Antica Pesa is truly worth going to Brookyn (Williamsburg, so just barely). High quality, classic Italian ingredients, done in clean preparations in order to honor the ingredients and the traditions of each dish. Moist, salty mozzarella was its softy and yummy best when baked in crispy phyllo and topped with proscuitto, the softness and warmness of the cheese and the crunch of the phyllo adding depth to this classic pairing. We had two pastas (on the same plate, perfection), that were both cooked perfectly al dente, and just supremely satisfying in their different ways. The Cacio e Pepe was simple and had different dimensions from the cheese, not any added butter or cream. The Amatriciana was one of the best ever (sorry Babbo), with the flat noodles and small crispy chunks of pork making it easy to get everything in in one bite. To punch up this dish, the waiter brought over a platter of heat, and offered to shave some hot peppers onto the dish or to pour a special hot oil. The oil was hot, and this dish took flight. Next time I want to try the Carbonara as well.
The stuffed chicken was next (for stuffed sisters, as D said), and that was also juicy and filled with cheesey, pesto-y onion-y goodness, but admittedly we were losing steam and room in our pants. We got hooked up and were treated to three desserts and two glasses of Limonciello; D loves Tiramisu and was thrilled with the one at Antica Pesa ( I don’t love tiramisu in general but this one was delicious), the meringue and fruit dessert was different due to the meringue cooking technique that left it a little softer than usual (I think they mentioned something about steaming), and we had some fresh peach dish was a fresh and light.
We got warm goodbyes from staff and managers, and double kisses. Smooth Italian men know how to work it. It might be all an act, but I don’t think so because at the end of the day you can’t fake good food; Antica Pesa feels like the real deal, and we left thoroughly charmed and thoroghly stuffed. This is genuine Italian hospitality, and, that’s not just hype. It’s nice to know that we have something in common with Madonna…