You probably can't get simpler than Sud Vino e Cucina, a restaurant in Bedford-Stuyvesant specializing in traditional Italian food with an emphasis on specialties of southern Italy. The simplicity starts with the dining room, which is absolutely minimal. Some candles on the tables, some white lights strung up around the bar, a sky-blue wall at the front, lots of brick along the sides. Nothing says Italian, but the interior looks inviting and warm, a respite from windy streets. The Spinners and the Four Tops play on the stereo. Sud's menu, divided into crostini, insalate, antipasti, and pasta, shuns highfalutin-ness in favor of clarity. So does the cooking itself.
We started with the antipasto Italiano ($11), a plate of many good things, including Asiago cubes, slices of Brie, rounds of goat cheese (made in house and doused in pepper), olives, cacciatorini salami rounds, and a pot each of honey and a reduction of balsamic vinegar. We particularly loved the DIY-ness of the antipasto, and we spent many happy minutes exploring various permutations: brie + olive + balsamic, goat cheese + honey, fatty salami + sharp Asiago, etc.
Of the four specials on offer that night, we tried one, chicken cacciatore ($17), though all sounded nice. Out came a chicken breast, pounded flat and fried, delicately blanketed by a smear of tomato sauce. Capers and herbs made an appearance too, but as hints rather than overtures. This isn't simple as in "hey, how'd they do that?" but simple as in "we know how you did it, which makes us appreciate your technique all the more."
Sud has several pastas. The puttanesca ($13) has al dente spaghetti tossed with tomato sauce, anchovies, capers, and olives, an acidic, salty mishmash. Chunks of tomatoes and olives gave the fishy sauce some texture. The perfect presentation countervailed the dish's inherent rustic quality.
And then came the mocha buttercream cake ($7). The frosting melted in our mouths, and the cake was sweet in all senses of the word. At the bar, our server and the manager flirted over their knowledge of Romance languages.
With Do or Dine three doors down, Borough around the corner, and Saraghina, Celestino, and Peaches Hothouse nearby, Bed-Stuy has become a go-to for good food. Sud prefers to keep its ambitions, well, simpler, offering benefits, such as wine specials, to those who like it on Facebook or Twitter, and solid southern Italian to anyone who comes through the door. It might not get your heart racing, but it won't leave you brokenhearted either. It's best for: an amenable date.