Welcome to the new, new Williamsburg. Say goodbye to hipster chic farm-to-table establishments, and hello to ultra posh hangout of Madonna and Morgan Freeman, roaring fireplace, mustachioed Italian men, and sometimes Jazz band.
The above scene describes the relatively new "modern Roman" restaurant, Antica Pesa that opened a few months back on Berry Street in Williamsburg. The original Antica, located in Rome, has been run by 4 generations of the same Italian family and has a reputation for delicious Italian food and a celebrity clientele.
I can't speak for their Italian counterpart, but here in Brooklyn Antica Pesa seems to be off to a good start. I like the ambience. It's fun. A large dark room (hence the terrible dark photos) with an awesome lounge area filled with overstuffed sofas is offset with white mod lighting and wood tables giving it a rustic yet modern vibe. The crowd is a mix of young, cool people, a lot from Brooklyn, with some Manhattanites and tourists thrown in for good measure. I read some reviews crying long waits and terrible service, but that was not my experience at all. Our waiter Alec, was a perfect gentleman; friendly, attentive, and well, adorable. Antica Pesa is perfect for a change of pace. Although I found the food to be good, not great, it's not your typical neighborhood hang, and could be fun on the right night with the right crowd.
After airing delightful bottle of rich red wine, a wooden chest arrives at the table with a selection of warm bread. This is always a good start. The food comes out in 3 courses. Autumn Salad with figs and artichokes, a Cheese Plate accompanied with honey and orange bitters and a Vegetable tasting (including beets, fried phyllo, and some interesting yet delicious hummus). Everything is tasty, if not mind blowing.
Next up, Cacio e Pepe, their signature dish. Wow. Creamy and buttery but not too overwhelming or heavy. Spot on. Best dish of the night. The Ravioli filled with potatoes and a leek cream, though presented beautifully, is hard and undercooked. Risotto with mushrooms topped with goat cheese is creamy and excellent.
Looking back, we probably should've stopped here. A selection of Mushrooms, roasted and fried, and the waiter recommended Bacala comes next. We liked the shrooms. They're tasty, the roasted ones more so than the fried which felt overwhelmed with breading. Bacala was just okay, the fish was small and somewhat bland.
Undecided for dessert, we went for the off the menu Homemade Gelatos. Tonight's included amaretto, white chocolate and pistachio. White chocolate was the best of the bunch if you have that sweet tooth craving.
You'll have a good time at Antica Pesa. The atmosphere, attentive service, and cool vibe make up for some of the food shortcomings. And that cacio e pepe was really really good.
Neighborhood: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Bite Mark: *** & a half
Good For: Date Night, Fun Night Out, Entertaining Out of Towners
Antica Pesa, 115 Berry Street bet 7th & 8th St www.anticapesa.com