- scene: The front room is light and airy, and reminds you of the best restaurant you went to in another city
- sip: Aperol Spritz; vino
- savor: Fritelle; squash;Rigatoni Diavola; Malfadini; Black Bass; Soft Serve
- sit: With another couple for sharing; with anyone who will go to Brooklyn
- spend: $$
- address: 567 Union Avenue (corner of N. 10th and Union)
- phone number: (718) 576-3095
- website: www.lilianewyork.com
The Sisterhood loves nothing more than the chance to sing the praises of a woman chef, and we know that we will not be alone in singing the song of Missy Robbins once more people get their asses to Lilia. We have long been fans of Missy Robbins, especially her wonderful pastas, but for no particular reason A Voce seems to have drifted off our radar, so it has been a while since we experienced her food. Our meal at Lilia will not soon be forgotten, especially since we were lucky enough to meet Missy, who adorably made it her mission to figure out which table just posted the gorgeous photo of her pasta to Instagram (us!) Swoon swoon.
At first I was puzzled why such an accomplished Chef who helmed the kitchen in the high rent mall that is the Time Warner Center would want to open in Brooklyn, but after our meal it made sense. Lilia physically feels like a departure from Manhattan and any sort of pretense or sense of urgency, a place with a slower pace churning out dishes that exhibit a delicacy and balance of flavors that take time and skill. We were seated in the back room of the restaurant, a slightly awkward space with less light than the front room, and we would request the airier front space next time. (But we still got some good pictures.) The vibe is casual and begs for a dinner lingering over bottles of red white and fights over the last bite.
I had an excellent Aperol Spritz to fire up the taste buds, and Daryl inherited her husband’s Bianco Bianca (or something) which was also refreshing. Now, the food. The cacio pepe Fritalles are not to be missed, and were so decadently flavorful that my brother in law said he felt guilty eating them (which left more for me.) The prosciutto dish put a unique spin on the usual pairing of prosciutto and parmigaino, by accompanying the meat with parmigiana butter, balsamic mustard, and bread (which I feel could have benefited from a quick turn on the grill.) The combination of all of the ingredients was interesting and satisfying. The acorn squash was both sweet and salty in equal measures, and thoroughly addictive. The grilled clams with chorizo and Calabrian chiles were a flavor explosion, with each clam given its own piece of chorizo and the right about spice; I am running out of superlatives and adjectives and we are still on the appetizers.
The food is both familiar and new at the same time, the best example of which is the malfadini which is essentially a cacio e pepe, but made more exciting due to the texture of the uncommon pasta shape. The malfadini and the rigatoni Diavola were both cooked perfectly al dente, but the homemade parpadelle with the veal ragu was softer. All of the pastas are entree size, so if you like to get some pasta “for the table” keep the larger than average size in mind, and then order more than you should anyway. The black bass with salsa verde and coal roasted potatoes was the most exciting fish dish I have had in a long time, the salsa verde zippy and bright and the potatoes and fish the ideal vehicles for its delivery. The lamb, because of course you need lamb after 3 pastas, was another terrific surprise. Served as a steak, it was wonderfully spiced and remarkably tender.
But wait, there is more, two words that represent the happiest end to any meal: Soft Serve. There was a lot of back and forth over which was better (I voted chocolate but didn’t love the coffee topping), although had we ordered RAINBOW SPRINKLES on our vanilla that might have swayed me. Missy Robbins is a fucking boss and deserves to be a bigger part of the female chef conversation in this city, even if her best work is in Brooklyn. Train there, Uber home, only way to live life…