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Review: al di la

Posted by gambit50 on May 6, 2008

al di la, Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY

Al di la is an Italian joint in Park Slope that has been getting very good reviews for years. I was staying in Park Slope myself, awhile back, and instead of venturing into Manhattan as I normally would, I decided to try one of Brooklyn’s more touted offerings that was not of the simple, ethnic food variety.

Two of us walked in on a Saturday evening during the summer. We did not wait long for a table though there are no reservations and it is supposedly usually quite packed. The lighting was very low, close to black save for the lamps which served more as beacons that there was a table with diners than as a source of light to illuminate the entire room. Honestly, it was difficult to notice much else in the room. I know it was not a pretty thing or even very pleasant in the rustic way. Perhaps it is a bit of the cheesy factor, the wallpaper, I am not sure. Not offensive enough to forego it if the food were up to its name but certainly not the type of room that was good enough not to notice. I walked in and felt like someone without much sense was behind the decor. Not to say that every place in Manhattan is better but this is one of the favorites of Brooklyn thus I would expect a bit better.

The dining room is relatively small, though my memory won’t allow me to estimate the number of tables. Toward the back the tables were more easily pushed together for larger parties maybe 6 or 8 and only a couple of those would be possible though there were no tables with more than 4 people at the time.

The service was a bit slow to react to our being seated. It was almost packed but this is usual so that is not an excuse. Also, I rather wait a bit than be rushed but it was too long before being acknowledged. Overall, not a huge deal. The rest of the service was adequate, take the order, serve the food, get the check, all that done. Certainly nothing positive to say about it besides the fulfillment of a minimum standard. Again, this alone would not deter me from returning.

Now for the food. I admit that I cannot remember exactly what I ate since it was near two years ago when I dined there. The menu is supposedly of Veneto. I have just now looked at the menu for online sources to try and figure out some of the dishes I tasted.

I know I had a baccala dish though the one I see listed now for an antipasti is baccala mantecato with polenta. I do not recall any polenta and am not sure I had a whipped version of the fish. In any case, it was very mediocre however it was prepared that much I recall discreetly. I try baccala in many places for comparison’s sake and because I enjoy it very much. As the first dish I tasted in this restaurant, I was disappointed, period.

The rest of the meal was barely better. I was so underwhelmed that I can give this general review of the food without remembering specifics. I partook in no pasta dishes. A rabbit dish and a fish dish were just so unmemorable there is no point. You might guess that I was quick to skip dessert and grab the check. The check was not outrageous but I felt overly angry about it, likely due to such a great disappointment in my meal. For about $85 for two people with no alcohol, I still felt taken.

You might say that the lack of detail in the description of the food renders my verdict moot but I think this is actually a bigger indictment of one of Brooklyn’s finest. Honestly, BK, you really need to offer something better before you toot your culinary horn. Perhaps it is one of the best but that is truly sad. Much like certain neighborhoods in Manhattan, the fact that it is better than others around it does not make it good. Of course, I can understand why people do not want to indict their whole borough. That does not mean it is worth going to, and certainly not worth recommending to anyone else who is not within a 10 minute trip.

NTG

Summary: A very mediocre Italian restaurant in Park Slope. Like everything else there, it is overrated by its locals due to the fact that there is nothing else. The food is not inedible but it is very plain and the execution is only OK. I cannot see why anyone would take a journey to dine here or wait longer than 10 minutes for a table. Well, I know why but I will save my disparaging comments for another time. Go and eat somewhere else, though after my experience there, I have little confidence in the Brooklyn dining scene as a whole since this is one of the more highly rated restaurants in the borough. I would rather eat tasty kebabs and other simple, tasty food in BK anytime. Sorry Brooklynites, that is just how it is. If it makes you feel better there are neighborhoods in Manhattan with zero good food, as well. Until I dip into that topic, hop a subway or grab a taxi. Last visited, July, 2006. Cost $40/pp

Ratings:

Food – 76

Vibe – 74

Service – 72

Value – 76

Overall – 72

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