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Al di La or Chestnut or Applewood or Grocery? HELP!

I've got the folks coming with their wallet at the end of the month and want to show them Park Slope. The last time they were here we went to Stone Park which was very nice. This time I'm debating between Al di La (which I love but we're going to Babbo for Italian the night before) or Chestnut (which I've heard good things about but is not in Park Slope) I would prefer to stay in the hood but I'm not that wed to it if there's a great place on Smith or Court I should try.

Maybe Applewood? Tempo (I never liked it when it was Cucina)? When I really think about it Park Slope doesn't have many "destination" places. And I'm not really that familiar with the Smith Street places besides that charming Cuban place and Grocery.

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  1. Grocery and Saul are quite nice on Smith, and worth taking advantage of the parents' wallet. Chestnut you can afford on your own.

      1. Absolutely Grocery....it's extremely intimate..and the menu is sublime (the duck is to die for)..better make a reservation soon.
        that's the tricky part.

        1. If the folks are paying get thee to Applewood -- you can afford Chestnut with their amazing Tuesday/Wednesday $25 Prix Fixe.

          1. Applewood is great great great- and so is Little D Eatery- we ate there last week with the folks (who are BIG restaurant people) and they absolutely loved it- and we said why don't we eat here more often- it was just so spectacularly great. and humble and mellow. and not as slow as applewood... now babbo, that is a thing of perfection!!! mint love letters... osso bucco... mario... drooling...

            1. I'd say Applewood because I think it better typifies a Brooklyn restaurant (Brooklyn nouveau anyway). The way the owners hover around the place, the casual and comfortable space and the artisanal and passionate approach to the menu make this place one of my Brooklyn faves. It feels real and perfectly human-scale. Like Brooklyn.

              I love Grocery, but it's definitely a more "Manhattan" place with Manhattan aspirations. Since you're already eating at the most Manhattan of Manhattan restaurants (Babbo), I'd go for Applewood.

              Al Di La and Chestnut are tasty, but cheaper and not in the same league as Grocery and Applewood.

              1. What are you, nuts? al di la (that's a small "a") rocks. This is genuine food, not fussy, precious, Applewoody food. If you like food in Italy, you will like this food. There is a good reason this place is packed all the time, and it's not because it's fun to wait in line. If you can, go early and linger. Have a bunch of wines by the glass. Have a primo, a secondo, and the gelato. This is the real deal.

                (I like the bacalao, the mussels, the tripe, the hanger steak when I'm feeling lazy; the risotto is always good, the ragu, the green gnocchi things - starts with a "c" but I can't remember what they're called - all the meats - the monk fish is great ... it's all good.)

                10 Replies
                1. re: 4rx318

                  I do love al di la (corrected capitalization) but I'll be at Babbo the night before...I want to mix up the cuisines a bit.

                  1. re: pastoralia

                    You ARE mixing up the cuisines! Babbo is Piedmontese/Tuscan; al di la is Veneto/Friuli Guilia. For an Italian that's like the difference between Chinese and Japanese.

                    And what about Convivium?

                    1. re: 4rx318

                      Based on my limited experience, Al di La seems Babbo -like
                      Its take on the Italian cuisine it presents is colored up, tastewise, richer, a bit over the top, it doesnt have the restraint than you would see in the Veneto. For this reason, I think the OPs sense is valid.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        While I agree that different regions of Italian food might not seem sufficiently mixing up cuisines, I have to differ with your characterization of Al di La as coloring up venetian food, or taking it over the top.

                        I lived in Venice, and many, if not most, of the items at al di la are quite authentic. That is especially true of the appetizers and pastas, slightly less (in my view) of the entrees.

                        The giandiuotto desert is also a venetian thing, and absolutely delish, though it isn't exactly desert weather at the moment.

                        1. re: Delirium

                          I think you mistook my post. I feel that the mentality at al di la, the big lavish portions, richness is more babbo-esqe than venetian. there's a restraint and simplicity to typical venetian food which just wasnt there.
                          We had -what was it , ricotto gnocchi, strozzopreti ? and the portion was much too big and rich for one person. there were 4 of us at the table and one of them actually went uneaten - dont think that would have happened in Venice. Ive also not seen this dish on a venetian menu. I had what was basically a BBQ pork dish served with cabbage slaw, again large and very rich. Neither of these dishes seemed to me ones I would find on a venetian menu (except maybe at alla Zucca, which is far from typical) Dont misunderstand me, we loved our meals andperhaps some of these dishes are charactistic of the Veneto, if not Venice, but it was the feel of the food that for me was not venetian and had some newer, more american quality. Just my take.

                      2. re: 4rx318

                        As far as the parents are concerned...it's Italian. We're not all Italian regional scholars 4rx318 but we are all impressed.

                        But Convivium is a place I totally forgot about.

                        1. re: pastoralia

                          Another thing to consider (which you already know) is that Al Di La doesn't take reservations. Parents don't like lines - I'm a parent so I know these things.

                          I like Saul a lot. The price isn't a killer - about the same as Applewood. Tell the parents that it got a Michelin star two yeares in a row. As a bonus, reservations are easy to get on Opentable.

                          http://www.opentable.com/start.aspx?m=8

                        2. re: 4rx318

                          Babbo is "Piedmontese/Tuscan"?..... that strikes me as an odd, if not blatantly false, statement. Strictly speaking, Babbo is a new American resaturant featuring Batali's very personal take on many regional Italian cuisines. I don't think it adheres to a region. But I suppose I could be wrong.

                          Convivium is as good as al di la, and they take reservations.

                          1. re: Yaqo Homo

                            Mario Batali trained in Tuscany and if you look at his favorite restaurants (Da Cesare, etc.), they're generally in Piedmont. Plus, his lardo is standard fare in Piedmont - although it's treated as something really outre here. I just got back from Piedmont and many restaurants serve that to you as an antipasto. Plus, Piedmont is all about the animal fats -- it's above the climate for growing olive trees, so they're more like France ... like Mr. Batali. You know that "healthy" mediterranean food ... the olive oil, etc.? That's not what you go to Babbo for. That artery-stopping cuisine is pure Piedmont. Check al di la's website, etc. They're pushing the Veneto thing.

                            1. re: 4rx318

                              I'm sure you know more than I about such matters. But the menu does give (perhaps cursory?) nods to other regions with their excellent marinated fish, grilled seafood, and Sicilian-inspired dishes and wines

                    2. Applewood - I third this choice - it's my regular spot these days - imho, the best in PS - closed Sunday dinner and Mondays

                      Saul - he has $30 prix fixe during the week - hard to beat - never closed

                      Al Di La - just a reminder - no reservations - could be a wait depending on day/time - closed Tuesdays

                      1. Al Di La is excellent, but (IMO) not worth the endless wait with so many other dining options nearby.

                        For cute little restaurants with seasonal menus, I prefer Rose Water (Park Slope) over Chestnut (Carroll Gardens).

                        But my favorite Slope restaurant is probably Convivium. Superb wine, food and atmosphere (order the cheese plate!). I've taken many out-of-towners there (including my own folks), and they all thought I was a genius for "discovering" it.

                        1. I used to go to Convivium all the time when I lived in that part of the Slope (now I'm way, way, way on the other end). I read in a previous post someone wrote that there is a downstairs with a table? The last time I went there was only the one floor. Is there a downstairs dining area that would seat four? Because that would be perfect.

                          Do they still only take cash?

                          1. Yes, they have a very romantic dining area downstairs in their wine cellar. It actually seems larger than their upstairs space, but I'm not sure. It could easily accomodate four.

                            Oddly, they take American Express, but not other cards, last time I went.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Yaqo Homo

                              Service is slow - don't take impatient parents. But it's really charming inside.

                              1. re: 4rx318

                                Really? I haven't noticed. But then I tend to linger at pleasant restaurants a very long time anyway; certainly don't go there if you're on a tight schedule.

                            2. I went to Applewood for the first time last night and think that it would be ideal for a parental visit. Should you feel so moved, the tasting menu is $55 and is available with wine pairings for an additional $20. We ordered a la carte and enjoyed evey dish that we had (beets and charcuterie to start; bass and risotto for mains and donuts for dessert).

                              The gracious service and cozy fireplace will impress your parents.

                              The fact that they take reservations is essential.

                              Good luck!

                              1. i forget the name of the place, but there is a very small and delicious fish restaurant on 9th street right off of 7th avenue. I also like Al di La, its been around for so long and its very consistant. Convivium is also really tasty and tucked away. I would not recommend rosewater, there is something very unpolished and thrown together about the food.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: admiralackbar

                                  I think the fish restaurant you're referring to is Minnow, which is long gone. I'd always go with al di la myself, but you have to get there early. Even though it doesn't have the ambiance of the main space, I prefer the wine bar for eating since you always get your own table. Take that if it's available. I'm just not a big fan of getting crammed up with strangers on one of the long tables. The last time I was in the main space we had a loud talker seated next to us which ruined an otherwise perfect meal.

                                2. I completely agree with that assessment of Rosewater (or is it "rosewater" - the lowercase thing ...)

                                  They were one of the first "serious" restaurants (whatever that means) in Park Slope, but their food is really unpolished. I stopped going there when I decided I could undercook the vegetables to accompany my meat myself.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. Well, we went to Applewood and it was amazing...food, atmosphere, staff were all top notch.

                                    1. al di la is amazing but tempo is also very good, consistent with a nice atmosphere for parents. try the valrhona tart for dessert. also, i love convivium osteria on 5th with an incredibly authentic atmosphere and interesting portugese/spanish/italian food.

                                      1. Applewood has excellent food, but its a little too country of an approach to be quintessentially Brooklyn. al di la would be my first choice, always! Convivium has a wonderful wine list and great food, but I honestly think its uncomfortable. What about Palo Santo or 360? Love them both...