Locanda Vini e Olii- Brooklyn's best Italian? Cliton HIll
Having either driven past or walked past this place everyday since I moved here, it took an out of town guest to get us in the door.. This place is a gem.. Wonderful food, wonderful wines, a true gem.. The place is supposedly Peidmontaise, however, there is influences from all over Italy.. In the beef carpaccio, I see black olives.. In the desserts, i see more Tuscan influence with almond choices in desserts.. All that aside, the food is absolutely fantastic..
Since we were with a friend of the owner, we sat back and let the food come out of the kitchen..We started with a little shot glass of two different types of soup.. White bean and tomato and basil, A trio of salmon bruschetta started us off.. Each piece more exciting than the next..
The bread is very Tuscan.. But with a little more salt.. But, it definitely was that dense bread that leaves Americans on their first visit to Italy wondering where the hell is the Loaf of Hoagie bread they are accustomed to..
We then moved on to stewed octopus and a pressed octopus carpaccio.. The type where the tentacles are pressed and then cut into rings where you can see the circle pattern on each slice.. In addition to the pressed octopus, there is an amazing fish loaf? with some sort of sauce on it..The loaf reminded me of bortaga.. However, I was not asking questions.. It was really sensory overload at this point.This dish was paired with a Late Harvest Sicilian white where all the sugars were completed fermented.. I hope to remember the name..
Wild boar sausage served with a side of apples in basil.. Strips of smoked speck.. Various cheeses..Lots of creamy goat cheeses.. wonderful chestnut honey, homemade onion jam...
We then moved on to I think the collective winner of the evening.. It was braised tongue sliced thinly served with a sauce. The tongue was so perfectly tender and juicy.. This was my favorite tongue dish i have ever had.. With this, we were also served Peidmontaise beef carpaccio..This version had some cooked cauliflower, some black olives.. Another winner..
From there we moved on to Chocolate pasta stuffed with short ribs.. This pasta was heavenly.. The rich stew of short ribs was a perfect molten mix of rich deep flavors..There was also this dish where strips of pasta were served with lentils.. The history behind this dish is you would take the left over cut out strips from making ravioli and use it up.. The pasta water was salted perfectly.. The lentils were just beautiful..
From the pasta we moved on to Branzino cooked "al cartoccio" with some braised fennel and a blood orange salad.. Perfectly cooked and divided between us..
We then moved to dessert where there was a bunch of different cakes and cookies.. All very good..
The crowd was mainly Italian.. Almost entirely.. As are all the staff and owners.. A true gem.. A destination for certain.. I am thinking it was one of the better Italian restaurants i have been to. From the wine pairings to the cheeses, fish, and pasta.. It was just a spectacular meal..
Menu calls the octo dish "Charcuterie From The Sea octopus sopressata and tuna salami"
While I've had a few good experiences at this place, I've also had a few bad ones.
The key in your review is "with a friend of the owner." If there are too many tables where there are "friends of the owner" those who are not are sadly neglected. You should probably go again soon to establish yourself, and thus become part of that group.
That said, I adore the pasta, especially the chestnut lasagnette.
re: David W
I have friends who go there a lot, and they rave about it, but my experiences have been less than outstanding. Not bad exactly, but not great considering how expensive it is. I also got the impression that if you are "friends of the owner" or regulars you have a very different experience from the general public. Not to say that doesn't happen at every restaurant, but at Locanda it seems the ONLY way to get a really good meal is to be connected, which I find strange.
I agree, its seems like a very personality- driven place (as I recall the owner came from Balthazar and is fairly theatrical). Its been several years - the place was so noisy /crowded on our last visit I was turned off. Have they had a chef change recently - the restaurant definitely started off Tuscan so Piedmontese sounds lke a change..
Thanks for the interesting review. I've been meaning to try this place for a long time.
A couple points of clarification:
- It is spelled Piedmontese in English or Piemontese in Italian.
- The Italian (Sardinian) cured fish roe is known as bottarga.
I'm in no way friends with the owners and I've had nothing but fabulous meals and experiences in my 6 or so visits over the last 5 years -- as recently as a party of 4 on a Saturday night about a month ago.
For those who note the noise, we got there at 7ish and it was deserted. So empty that I was afraid it had taken a turn for the worse. Rest assured, the food was as excellent as always. And by the time we were half done with the meal the place was packed and hopping.
I have to agree with Peter. We, too, know no-one here. And, while we find it a bit pricey, we really enjoy the food and find Locanda an attractive place to go with out-of-town (like Manhattan) people. The last time we went, we had the tasting menu for four which was really fun and tasty. The service was quite good.
Bob hits on a point I forgot to mention -- it's a great place to go with out of towners. Why?
Because it's so darned unexpected. It's the middle of a very sleepy, dimly lit residential neighborhood. It has no sign. The sign that's there declares it to be a pharmacy. You walk in and it's really one of the most unexpected/beautiful interiors I've come across. Dozens of new restaurants pay heaps to try and recreate that kind of serendipity.
And then the food and atmosphere are great to boot. Not to mention the whole "wine by the inch" schtick.
I was quite disappointed when I ate at Locanda Vini e Olii last year. The food was fine, not noteworthy, the service was spotty, and the price was high. Locanda is right in my neighborhood, but when I want a good Italian meal in Brooklyn, I'd definitely choose Noodle Pudding in Brooklyn Heights over Locanda.