Friday, February 21, 2014


Perfect for: A nice meal with friends after a day of wandering the shops of Park Slope
Price range: $$ Not bad
My rating: 9.5/10
Food: 9/10 Service: 9.5/10 Ambience: 9.5/10

It's not often I give a 9.5 rating. You should all know it usually defaults to 8.5. But for al di la, this was quite an exceptional Italian trattoria. Let me explain...

al di la is a very renowned Italian joint in the fancy brownstone lined, hipster yuppies turned millionaires, Surry Hills-esque suburb of Brooklyn. I.e. Park Slope. The beautiful brownstone houses easily run for over a million here, but you're not paying for just the houses - the suburb is speckled with cafes, bars and restaurants - and one of the go-to trattorias here is al di la

I had heard it mentioned numerous times - by trendy Brooklynites, yuppy Park Slopers, and on numerous lists of 'what-to-do-in-Park-Slope'. I decided that my adventures in Park Slope had to end with a dinner here. (note: al di la does do lunch, but from the one Yelp review I had read, I decided that dinner was the safer option.)

The restaurant opens at 6pm and I got here at 6.15pm, and about a third of the restaurant was already full - this is only a Thursday night. I got seated and my waiter told me about the specials - the pork loin with polenta jumped at me and so did the house-made pappardelle with duck ragu. I had also heard great things about their beetroot ravioli, but I'm a sucker for not just pappardelle but also duck so the decision wasn't that hard - especially if this duck ragu pappardelle was a once-off thing. And of course, no Italian meal comes complete without a glass of vino. 

The service was incredibly fast - my glass of wine pretty much appeared at the table. Followed swiftly by the bread (only disappointment was that it didn't come with olive oil, but with butter - it was warm, however, although it was definitely heated not fresh). Very soon after that, my pasta arrived. 

Now, I'm no Italian (surprising, huh?), but I've had my fair share of pappardelle and if there is a pasta that I could choose to be an expert on, this would be it. The pappardelle was perfect - silky yet with enough bite. The ragu was creamier than I expected - the duck fat definitely contributed to it, and probably made it richer than I would've liked. And the duck had been roasted with the skin still crispy, so the crispy skin had been added to the ragu for an interesting almost-smoky flavour, and additional texture to spice up the creamy ragu. 

Special: House-made pappardelle with duck ragu

I considered getting dessert but there was nothing on the dessert menu that really took my fancy - and to be completely fair, I had also had a slice of salted caramel apple pie three hours prior to dinner so I thought I'd behave. If I hadn't had that slice of pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, I probably would've opted for the cheese plate or the dessert special of flourless chocolate cake with walnuts and whipped cream. 

The service was superb throughout - definitely worth of the 20% tip I gave them. The waiter gave me some space while I drank my wine, without rushing me by bringing the check. That's one of my pet peeves in most waitstaff and this guy was very graceful.

The atmosphere here was also excellent - the crowd on this Thursday night is mostly Park Slopers, and the acoustics in the restaurant are great - the noise isn't so loud that you need to be shouting to be heard.

By the time I left, the restaurant was packed. Expect long waits if you're coming in a large group - but it's definitely worth the wait.

Meal: Brunch / Lunch / Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Address: 248 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215


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