I’m always a sucker for good old red-sauce Italian American restaurants that display a lot of richness in flavor. When a new restaurant opened up below the Williamsburg Bridge, headed by a chef who previously worked at Rubirosa (the excellent standard bearer in the city when it comes to the red-sauce cuisine), I was immediately hooked into checking it out. According to chef Albert Di Meglio, who grew up in Staten Island, the food from Barano is inspired by his childhood memory in the often neglected borough of New York City tracing back to the Italian roots of his grandmother. Unfortunately, I’ve had quite a few misses on my recent visit with my girlfriend.
The menu at Barano looks like an assortment of Italian classics, from various appetizers including mozzarella cheese and salami to pastas and pizzas to other large savory dishes. Some dishes were curiously off in terms of either flavor or texture. The shredded stracciatella mozzarella cheese was a little bit more salty than I had expected, and my girlfriend and I were a bit incredulous when we tried the meatballs which, contrary to its description that they were from 21-day dry-aged beef, tasted like a chunk of meat loaf from a meat processing plant. I’ve definitely had better meatball dishes elsewhere, and had to wonder why the texture of the meat at Barano came out so unexpectedly bad. Among the pasta options, we tried the bucatini with rabbit ragu and there was nothing memorable about this dish; the flavor of ragu was on the stronger side, and not in a good way, and the noodle wasn’t as firm in texture as I had expected from a bucatini dish. The saving grace among the savory options was the Calabrese pizza that I absolutely enjoyed. The combination of sausage, chilies and peppers was quite remarkable and the perfectly cooked thin crust of the pizza added more delight to the pie. Things started to get better on the dessert side. The panna cotta with milk, honey, citrus and pistachio hazelnut brittle was serviceable, and the other dessert, a single piece of cannolo with ricotta, candied fruit and dark chocolate, was absolutely sensational. I really had no idea that you could add ricotta into a dessert dish to such memorable effect; if I hadn’t been nearly stuffed at that point, I might’ve finished at least two of the sticks.
Getting a reservation at Barano was relatively easy, and the dining space was around half full in the course of our meal. I liked the casual neighborhood vibe of the dining space quite befitting a restaurant in Williamsburg. There is full bar with Italian-centric wine list you can complement your meal with. It is a bit unfortunate that my experience at Barano wasn’t quite up to the standard of red-sauce establishment that I had set since coming over to NYC five years ago. Perhaps it was just a bad day for the kitchen, but at this point I’m not inclined to come back any time soon other than to get a wine by the glass along with that amazing cannolo.
Brooklyn, NY 11249
Written by Ken S.