Al Di Là, the superb Italian restaurant that opened on Park Slope's Fifth Avenue way back in 1998, is no secret among Brooklyn food lovers. It harkens back to when Brooklyn was still considered an off-the-beaten-path dining destination. The restaurant quickly became a neighborhood favorite, then began drawing diners all the way from Manhattan, and remains a hot ticket today, more than a decade after it got its start.
Luckily for fans of the restaurant, the Al Di Là team opened the smaller, more casual Bar Corvo in Prospect Heights last winter, offering riffs of many of the original restaurant's hits—at slightly more forgiving prices. While the menu isn't overflowing with vegetarian eating, veg-friendly pastas are worth a visit.
A simple-looking but expertly-prepared Market Salad ($12) made a refreshing appetizer. Colorful beets, radishes, green and wax beans, and ribbons of squash were each cooked exactly as they should be—not a hair over or under—and coated in a vibrant, lemony vinaigrette. I'm a big fan of showcasing superb summer produce without too many special effects, but although I enjoyed this salad, I thought the price tag merited a little something extra—some soft cheese or toasted nuts, perhaps.
I was quickly mollified with the arrival of the first of two main dishes, the Spinach Malfatti ($15). These vibrant green pockets of pasta were filled almost to bursting with an intensely bright, intensely spinach-y filling lightened with just a hint of creamy ricotta. A nutty basil-walnut pesto brought some extra flavor and smooth, rich texture to the party.
A second main dish of Ricotta Cavatelli ($16, pictured at top) was also excellent. Eating at Bar Corvo reminds you of just how good homemade, just-cooked pasta can be: these cavetelli were simultaneously chewy and tender, with a heartiness you just don't get from dried, boxed pasta. A simple topping of sweet burst cherry tomatoes, a spoonful of luxurious ricotta, and a healthy showering of grated Parmesan brought summery flavor to the pasta without overwhelming it.
Bar Corvo's pasta dishes are excellent vegetarian fare, and its side orders include even more meat-free options such as creamy polenta, spicy fried chickpeas, and a daily rotating bruschetta. It's a restaurant that—were it still the late '90s—I'd say was worth crossing the East River for.