I can't stand the word "authentic," but I have to say that Va Beh' in Brooklyn reminded me more of Italy than just about any restaurant in New York does.
Which is to say, there's nothing that tries too hard. There's nothing radically different. Just straightforward fare, ample wine, and lots of fresh pasta. (Which is fine by me.) Husband and wife Michele and Qiana Di Bari and partner Andrea Alari all hail from Milan, where I can absolutely imagine this stylish but stripped-down urban eatery and wine bar.
Its actual location, on Dean and Flatbush near Atlantic Terminal, is sort of a curious one, on a tiny stretch of street closing off a highly trafficked triangle that separates Park Slope and Prospect Heights. If you're lucky, the view of the rising Atlantic Center out the door is just something to check out and remark on. (If you're unlucky, construction noise might put a slight damper on your meal.)
Simplicity is the selling point here. The strength of the eggplant zucchini pepper antipasto pot ($8), for instance, wasn't in any particular twist or elusive seasoning, but in the slight char on the grilled vegetables, the peppery bite of olive oil, the balance of garlic and parsley. The bread served alongside, from Royal Crown Bakery in Bensonhurst, is nicely crusty and ideal for making the most of the flavored oil that pools in the bottom.
A pappardelle with duck ragu (a $15 special; most bowls are just $11) was overwhelmingly duck-y rather than tomato-based, the tomato barely staining the insanely rich stew-like sauce on top: for duck fans only. The rough-edged pappardelle were a touch too soft for my liking, but in the tender, forgiving way of fresh pasta. (At dinner, all pasta served at Va Beh' is fresh, made in-house)
And the Meatballs Al Sugo ($8) were tender and loosely packed, nicely browned on the edges, in a well-seasoned tomato sauce that didn't mask the veal flavor.
They've got three wines on tap (white, red, and prosecco!) if you're looking for affordable, and a long list of Italian wines if you're not. When I ordered a glass of Dolcetto d'Alba, the waiter brought over that as well as two other bottles, to pour me a sample of each before I committed. A cynic would say that the other two wines were up-sells price-wise, but I'd rather an up-sell based on a taste than one I'm talked into blindly.
Not everything we tried at Va Beh' was perfect, but given that you can get almost any fresh pasta and a glass of wine for $20 or under, I can imagine it becoming a popular neighborhood spot. It looks like it's starting to already.
446 Dean Street, Brooklyn NY 11217 (map) 718-678-4200
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