Antica Pesa in Rome
When in Williamsburg, eat as the Romans do.
Brooklyn’s own Berry Street is a somewhat unlikely location for the first stateside outpost of Antica Pesa, the famous, 90-year-old restaurant in Trastevere, Italy. Instead of being perfectly suited to shabby chic hipsters, the sleek new eatery seems destined to follow in the path of its predecessor, becoming an out-of-the-way haven for the rich, famous and jet set. Case in point: an image search yields twenty pictures of Madonna, Ashton Kutcher and Thomas Hardy, juxtaposed with plates of Cacio e Pepe.
Antica Pesa in Williamsburg
Instead of the exposed brick and reclaimed wood combo that’s become de rigueur at many area restaurants, the interiors at Antica Pesa are determinedly modish and luxe. If you can’t secure a spot on one of the creased, leather settees flanking the enclosed wood fireplace (crackling away even on a balmy, spring evening), you might be able to snag a stool along the gleaming marble bar. There, you’d be wise to sip a Pimm’s Italiano or even better, an Antica Pesa Negroni, topped with a thin layer of pink grapefruit foam. If you’ve managed to secure a reservation, retire to the back room for dinner, where wooden tables and streamlined banquettes overlook an open kitchen. Take a pass on the proffered breadbasket and focus your efforts on the menu.
Millefoglle di Melanzane e Ricotta
The menu is evenly divided between Per Iniziare (antipasti), La Pasta, and Il Secondi, and you should certainly order a few selections from each. There’s an excellent assortment of Antipasti, each offering a fresh take on an otherwise traditional dish. Best of all were the Crudo e Bufala Croccante, a ball of milky mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and shrouded in a flaky filo pastry, an intriguing Wild Arugula Salad, tossed with snappy green beans and artichokes, confit tomatoes, marinated zucchini and a refreshing yogurt and mint dressing, and Millefoglle di Melanzane e Ricotta, a whimsical play on eggplant parmigiana. Thinly sliced and fried like potato chips, the crispy eggplant is the perfect vehicle to scoop up clouds of ricotta and parmesan mousse, along with a smattering of roasted cherry tomatoes, and smears of vibrant basil pesto.
Cacio e Pepe
It’s hard to find fault with expertly executed classics, like Porchetta, Polpette and the grilled lamb chops Scottadito (Italian for “burned fingers”). We loved simple, liberally seasoned pastas like Schiaffioni all’Amatriciana, Mezze Maniche all’Carbonara, and the aforementioned Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe (although pity it wasn’t tossed tableside in a giant wheel of cheese).
Paired with selections from an all-Italian wine list (you’re certainly welcome to that $1100 bottle of Sori San Lorenzo Barbaresco, although no one will sneer if you order a gently priced Vitiano Rosso for $35), and you have a meal fit for globetrotting celebrity — or, at the very least, a decidedly well-heeled local. If you can’t get to Rome this summer, Antica Pesa happens to be a terrific conciliation prize.