Al Di La has long been hailed as one of Brooklyn's best restaurants. The long wait for tables had always scared me away, until a friend informed me about Al Di La's wine bar around the corner from the main dining room (it also serves as spillover seating on busy nights). When I heard that they served the same menu, in addition to a few bar snacks, I decided that I'd have to put it to the Apps Only test—could we put together an appetizer meal and escape for under $15/person?
We started with two of Al Di La's bar snacks. The Roasted Nuts ($4) were delicious, scented with rosemary and just a bit spicy, a fantastic snack. They were overshadowed, however, by the Spicy Fried Chickpeas ($4), a snack of the very highest order: crispy on the outside, creamy inside, flavored with plenty of heat and smoked paprika. These chickpeas were worth the trip to Al Di La in and of themselves.
Al Di La's Cichetti plate ($12) is an ideal dish for Apps Only: a sort of Venetian tapas, it consisted of three snack-sized dishes. A whipped baccala spread was at once light and rich without being too fishy. The pickled mackerel was in fact fishy, as pickled fish tends to be, but it was also sweet and sour, a nice contrast to the creamy baccala. If you're a fan of pickled fish, you'll probably love this. Lastly, a roasted squash doused in sherry vinegar was perfectly balanced, the vinegar adding a nice tanginess to the sweet squash. On the side came a few pieces of polenta cake, the perfect vehicle for delivering these cichetti to your mouth.
Al Di La's Malfatti ($15) is one of the most talked-about dishes at the restaurant, and it's easy to see why: pillowy Swiss chard gnocchi served in a puddle of brown butter dotted with crispy sage leaves is a truly memorable plate. It's not big--we're talking about maybe five large gnocchi per order--but it's well worth it. Get your money's worth by sopping up the remaining sage-scented butter with some bread.
The Warm Farro Salad ($11) was hearty without being heavy. It's got a ton of ingredients--roasted cauliflower, squash, tat soi, hazelnuts, goat cheese and a sherry vinaigrette--but remains simple and delicious. Rich, olive oil- and butter-laden Crushed Yukon Gold Potatoes ($6) rounded out the meal, a simple yet luscious side.
In the end, we spent $52 between the three of us, or about $17 per person—just over the $15 per person Apps Only target price. We didn't eat a ton of food, but our meal was so rich that we certainly left satisfied. If Al Di La seems out of your price range, head to their wine bar around the corner; after all, a taste of this great food is better than none at all.
Al Di La Vino
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