After trying a bite of the ricotta pound cake (with cranberries and orange whipped cream), Donny remarked that he thought it was “good, not great.” Although I liked this dessert a lot, “good, not great” pretty much summed up our entire dinner at Al Di La, a Park Slope neighborhood favorite.
I first heard about Al Di La on an episode of Bittman Takes On America’s Chefs, in which Al Di La’s Anna Klinger prepared casunsiei, delicate beet filled ravioli dressed with cheese, melted butter and poppy seeds (note: I have seen that word spelled about five different ways, I don’t remember how the menu spelled it). It sounded amazing, and I knew I had to order it when I visited the restaurant. It really exemplifies the Northern Italian style cooking showcased as Al Di La. In reality the dish was underwhelming — the filling tasted like nothing more than finely chopped beets. It needed to be offset by something more robust, like a little goat cheese, to help bring out the natural sweetness of the beets. It was light and fresh, but it was too one-note.
There were highlights to the meal. In addition to the ricotta pound cake, my favorite dish of the night was my appetizer, the warm farro salad. The farro was plump and chewy, and well seasoned. It was matched well with seasonal roasted vegetables and hazelnuts, all tied together with a delicious sherry vinaigrrette made with an incredible olive oil. It was salty and sweet, making it addictive in the best way. There was nothing one-note about this dish.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you may know that I love Brussels sprouts. Donny likes them as well, so we got an order of the roasted Brussels sprouts, topped with a horseradish gremolata (again the Norther Italian influence). Although the sprouts themselves were fine, the gremolata added absolutely nothing to the dish — I barely tasted the horseradish at all. Brussels sprouts are such a strong flavor that something other than horseradish may have been a better choice to off-set them.
Al Di La is often lauded as one of the best restaurants in Brooklyn, and a jewel in Park Slope’s crown. Maybe it had been built up a little too much for me, but I didn’t have a meal that lived up to that hype. I haven’t been to many restaurants that cook this Northern Italian style, and I appreciated the variety the menu represented. I only wish that all of our food had lived up to the promise.
Al Di La — 248 5th Ave, Brooklyn