Need proof that Lilia’s the hottest Brooklyn opening of the last few years — in Manhattan’s estimation, at least? Witness the capacious refurbished auto body shop, properly prettified with exposed beam ceilings, skylight, soaring casement windows, skylight tableaus of wine bottles and stacked cords of wood for the grills. Did we mention it’s utterly packed by 6:30pm? Sure, you might spy a spare table or two, but they’re all being held by reservation, for parties of varying size. In fact, Lilia might be one of the first restaurants in Williamsburg that not only accepts reservations, but also for now at least, actively requires them, as this is how Manhattan folk dine. (Check out the Resy app if you’re hoping for a reservation.) So woe to the appless, hapless hordes, straggling in straight off the street, before being turned away by the prim gatekeeper in droves; advised to try again at 10:30.
“We’re officially in Tribeca,” murmured my companion, as we were, after a bit of haggling for an impromptu table, led to a two-top behind the service station (we promised we’d order fast, and relinquish the table in under an hour, before its rightful owner showed up). But if you wisely make a reservatin, you’ll stand in thrall to an open kitchen (all the better to peep Missy Robbins, to whom, due to a Michelin-starred run at A Voce) where Robbins is thankfully back in the kitchen after a two-year long hiatus.
There are certain, expected wobbles inherent in infant eateries, but the crew at Lilia is already practiced at turning over tables; dishes came out in speedy, measured succession. In an attempt to explore the lighter side of Italian cuisine, there’s a marked emphasis on vegetables (spires of romanesco with a scrim of Sicilian pesto) and fish (cured sardine filets, draped on thickly buttered bread), and frequently, both at once, as with a warm bagna cauda; anchovy and garlic-enriched dip, paired with endive boats, blanched carrots, french radishes, and crunchy curls of fennel. Since it wouldn’t be a Missy Robbins restaurant without pasta, she seems to have emphasized portion control, serving simple, hearty staples, like rigatoni with tomatoes, pappardelle with bolognese, malfadini with peppercorns and sheep’s milk cheese agnolotti in polite swirls, rather than unrestrained heaps. Don’t even think about eating here without ordering a pasta or two!
Next time, we’ll make a reservation first, so we can stay awhile and savor Missy Robbins’ cooking in all her glory at this unexpected success story on the edge of Williamsburg.
567 Union Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11222