Tempo or al di la?
Every now and again we get the opportunity to have a baby-free dinner. As new parents, we need extra tasty food to compensate for missing our little muffin. Tempo and al di la are both walking distance from home, yet we have never been to either one (Lunetta and Lucali are closer and easier!). We are vegetarians, and there seems to be something to eat for us at each. I know al di la doesn't take reservations, but I don't think it will be a problem for us since we will be eating early. I was leaning toward Tempo, but in light of a recent negative review I was hoping for some feedback to help me choose.
Thanks so much!
Honestly,I love them both! We probably go to Tempo more often because it is easier to get a table and the prix fixe is an amazing deal, but Al Di La is delicious also. You can't go wrong with either one.
Al di la, totally! Tempo has never really won my heart in the same way. I think their veg ravioli is one of the best things on the menu.
For a baby-free night, I recommend Tempo. Yes, food very good at al di la, but it is very cramped at tables for two. I'm a veg (actually, I eat fish, so semi-veg) and the choices are always more plentiful at Tempo. Love the bucatini, the mushroom polenta and the salad with goat cheese. So, if you don't want a bit more space and don't want to hear the next couple's conversation, and if you care about a much better wine list and great cocktails, I'd pick Tempo. I know I'm in the minority - but like the ambience more at Tempo for a rare night out.
We are not vegetarians, so it is sort of hard to recommend any restaurant from that basis. My husband has not touched red meat or fowl for approximately 35 years, but he does eat fish & seafood in addition to vegetables.
We prefer Tempo, hands down. The food at Tempo is lighter, less greasy than at Al Di La. The food at Tempo is much more upscale than that of Al Di La.
My husband and I have been regulars at Tempo for years, and we still love it.
When we first tried the place we so happily surprised: it was like a very good Manhattan style restaurant -in Brooklyn, with Brooklyn prices.
The space is very nice, with good atmosphere, the food is delicious, the service is good, and the wine list is the best one in Brooklyn (not counting the wine lists at super-expensive event restaurants like River Cafe or Peter Luger).
Robert (one of the partners at Tempo) knows his wines so well - and is really passionate about them, so if you are into wines, definitely ask for him when choosing. We are total wine geeks, and know what we like, but we still like picking Robert's brains and often let him choose for us. (But just him, no one else right now.)
To us, there is absolutely no competition: Tempo beats Al Di La coming and going!
Al di la is cramped and uncomfortable, the food is mediocre at best -and once my husband actually had to go buy mints at the small grocery across the street, to get the greasy taste out of his mouth.
We tried AL Di La several times, always in a group of 4 people, so we sampled quite a few dishes. We were all so under-whelmed. The wine list also failed to woo us. And actually, we were not inspired to order a second bottle for the four of us, since the food was so uninspiring.
We keep going back to Tempo, again and again, because it is just too good to resist (especially at these prices).
We are actually tempted to only dine at Tempo when we stay in Brooklyn. We actually used to do that a lot, but nowadays we try to support other neighborhood restaurants, too. But we have absolutely no desire to dine at Al Di La again - and probably will not. At least not until someone who's palate we trust, tells us that it is worth trying again...
P.S. If you do decide to go to Tempo, ask for a romantic, cozy corner table, for the two of you.
Ditto on wine list being far superior at Tempo and that Robert's passion and knowledge make it that much more enjoyable. Definitely disagree with the characterization of Tempo as "underwhelming". Try the clean fresh tasting farro salad with beets as a starter, the fregola with shrimp (lovely, light and tasty). al di la is a heavier meal although I would not call it "greasy" and love their risotto. As I've said before, the food at al di la is good but it just seems that practically sitting in the next person's lap isn't worth it (or go with 4 ppl - much better shot at a little space). Tempo!
I love Tempo and think that the service, space and wine list are all superior to Al di La. In my opinion the food is a toss-up - Al di La's filled pastas (I include the excellet Malfatti in this category) are amongst the best I've had in New York, Tempo has some of the best salads I've tasted.
Al di La does have more of a buzz about it but with that, one must accept the crowds and long waits which I am not always in the mood for. I personally think that Tempo should do away with that second room. It's not as charming as the first and I've never seen it full - eating in the bare second room can be a buzz-kill.
Also, both restaurants need to do a better job of updating their menus to take into account seasonality (Al di La - how can you have two pastas with butter sauces in the summer? Tempo - think about offering fewer choices but changing them more often.).
I can't let the two comments about the superiority of Tempo's wine list go by:
the wine list at Al di La is incredible. The owner has carefully chosen a variety of wines to suit all tastes, from every region of Italy and in every price range. Many of the wines are not available in wine stores because they come from small producers. Ask for assistance with your wine selection, because you will be surprised at the quality and values. I am particularly fond of some of the wines he features from Sicily and Sardinia, where you can get alot of bang for your buck. The wine list features some Tuscan gems, but tend to be a bit more pricey. Tempo's wine list is decent and the availability of quartinos is nice, but the selection is of much higher quality at Al di La.
I completely agree. I've had nothing but really interesting and delicious glasses of wine at al di la, and not just Italian wines either -- I've had Austrian, Spanish and French wines of note there too, from Aglianico to Zwiegelt.
I've also found that the staff there is very knowledgeable about pairing the wines with the food, so it's worth asking for recommendations.
Tempo maintains a well thought out, inspired, wine list, displaying a romantic inclination inspired by the eternal love affair between food and drink. Though the list is certainly Italian weighted, the Burgundy lover or Iberian adventurer can easily satisfy their respective lusts. While we fault it for a shallow Bordeaux selection (though the Bordeaux we have had was robust and delightful), we can honestly say we never had a bad wine there. Try to find a 2001 Remirez de Ganuza, or a 2002 Rhone wine (bad year for the region) that is not only drinkable but delightful, anywhere else in Brooklyn, and you will be frustrated. The list is deep, with hard to find gems, running across a price range that enables even an oenophile on a tight budget to walk out with a new, enjoyable experience.
Some examples of compelling wines are the 2001 Fratelli Alessandro Barolo, remarkable because it does not need 5 hours to breathe; or the very food friendly Cordero di Montezemolo, a 2003 Barbera D'Alba that manages to convey some Burgundian characteristics in an easy drinking, fun wine; or the reasonably priced 2002 Bressan Schioppettino, an Italian red that works with fish, or a fabulous 1997 Ghemme, fruity without a trace of typical Italian austerity. It would be a sad mistake not to try the amazing Marion Amarone from 2001 (if they have any left), a glorious wine (but only if you like the combined taste of amarene cherries, dried prunes, woodland fruits, blackberries and blueberries in a well structured, integrated package that finishes with spices like cinnamon and licorice).
And how about the Eguren family wines from Spain, like the Sierra Cantabria Colleccion Privada 2003, a veritable fruit bomb, or the 2002 San Vicente, a joyous liquid chocolate cherry food friendly delight. Wines from Vall Llach in the Priorat region of Spain display the hip side of Tempo's list - no getting trapped in the dusty cellars of ancient Europe. And if you need familiar names like Emilio Moro or Candado de Haza, they are there too.
And though we "complain" about their paucity of Bordeaux, we had a truly enjoyable Grand Puy Lacoste (2001), rated 89-92 by Steve Tanzer, that was rich with deep cherry and cassis and had a fabulous mouth feel.
We prefer reds, but Tempo has a respectable white wine cellar (although a lack of white Burgundy is a bit troubling). They are also quite creative and refuse to be bound by convention. We once had a surprisingly good Greek, yes Greek, red that lesser cellars would have been too afraid to present. Tempo has wines from a range of countries.
In sum, the list at Tempo is deep, variegated, lovingly chosen for quality across all price ranges and suffers only from the limits of space and the expectations of its customers.
The word "decent" can be taken either pejoratively or as positive understatement. Tempo's list is quite decent, if not one of the best lists in Brooklyn outside of River Cafe & Peter Luger. The fact that one or more diners might prefer the narrower list at Al Di La for its inexpensive Sardinian and Sicilian wines (some of which are also available at Tempo) does not render the Al Di La list "better."
Al Di La's wine list incredible? I do not think so. Not even close.
If a restaurant has a "broad" selection of only Italian wines (or just any one country's wines) - that does not make its wine list "incredible". It is just a wine list limited only to Italy's (one country's) wines, even if there were a good selection of Italian wines there. (Having a few obligatory wines from some other countries does not make a list "broad".).
A broad, deep & intelligent selection of wines from all around the world, is what makes a wine list "incredible". Here are a few of the restaurants in New York that have a wine list worthy of the description:
-Cru: 65,000-bottle inventory. The wine list contains rare vintages.
-Veritas: Over 3,000 selections with impressive choices, wines in every price category, from cheap to stupendously expensive.
-Morrell Wine bar & Cafe: over 2,000 selections, including over 50 wines by the glass.
-per se: A 1,200-bottle wine list, with wonderful selections. We know from experience, that the sommelier at per se is excellent and can help you find the perfect match to each dish
...etc... (not to forget Le Bernardin -with a pretty excellent wine list ... and last time we ate at River Cafe, that was quite a wine list, too...), these are the "incredible" wine lists, just to name a few.
So, even though I am a big fan of Tempo and its wine list, and think it is better than Al Di La's wine list, I would not dream of calling it "incredible".
I know that wine lists online are not up to date, but this might still give some measure of comparison:
(click on red square: vino)
Just a great post. No one can sway my opinion that the food at al di la is much better than Tempo - that's just a fact to my tastebuds for better or worse - I can see from your post that the list at Tempo is much better for more advanced oenophiles. (I, however, am not one of those - I'm equally happy with a 2002 California pinot as I am with a bottle of buckie - both of which I happily consumed on NYE). It should be noted that (at least on occasion) the wine list at al di la has not been only Italian - I've had a great Slovakian Tokaji there and a gruner veltliner (which, of course, could have been made in Italy, but I just assume it was from Austria). I could be wrong as I'm not as in to wine as I am in to food, but my suspicion is such that I figured I'd post this.
Just to provide some closure - we ended up eating at al di la. We did peek into Tempo, as well, but it was quite early and there was no one there, so it seemed like it would be more festive to eat at al di la. We waited for a table for about half an hour, which we spent in the winebar. They were helpful in suggesting wines for each of us. We liked the atmosphere in the actual restaurant very much, and the food was overall quite good. If I had to use one word to describe it, I would have to say "buttery". There was a LOT of butter, so I can see how people have thought it to be greasy or heavy. The salads were really lovely - we had the winter white and something with chicory (a special). They were able to cut the fennel out of the winter white salad, which was much appreciated. We had the malfatti, which was very good and tasted super fresh, and one of the ravioli dishes with brown butter. My boyfriend very much enjoyed that brown butter sauce. We had smashed potatoes, which were literally swimming in butter or oil - we left almost all of them over, and brussels sprouts, which were more successful. I can't remember what we had for dessert, but I do remember that we thought the dessert was well done. My only service nit is that they kept trying to take our bread away while we were nibbling, but really it was a very nice evening. We may try Tempo this weekend!
Just wanted to add a note about timing your visit - we went on a Saturday evening, and got there around 20 minutes after they had opened. The estimated waits were pretty long at that time, since the restaurant was filled to capacity and everyone had to get through their meals (they told us an hour and a half, but we were lucky!). There was a lull by 7:30, though, with may empty tables.
As a frequent diner at both, I implore you to try to spread the word and have more BABY FREE dinners. I am not sure why they do it, but at Al Di La in particular couples are allowed to bring noisy and annoying babies into the restaurant with alarming frequency. This is catastrophic to a quiet night out. In this culture of indulgent child worship, no one dares say anything. So Chowhounders voice up!