Today is historically one of the busiest travel days of the year. I made a conscious decision to avoid the day-before-Thanksgiving rush and save the misery of a 400 mile trek to Buffalo. Instead of wasting hours fighting traffic on the I-90 or waiting to be violated by a TSA official, I spent the afternoon enjoying a leisurely lunch at Al di Là with my Brooklyn buds, Amanda and Matt.
Located on a quaint block in Brooklyn's Park Slope, Al di Là is a small restaurant with a big following. The trattoria's no-reservation policy does nothing to deter patrons from lining up in droves to taste chef-owner Anna Klinger's Venetian inspired fare. Luckily, as everyone else was hurrying out of town, we were seated immediately in a relaxed, half-full dining room.
Appetizers, entrees and desserts are simply presented, and are swimming in layers of flavor. We indulged in the mixed green salad- served with a generous piece of schiacciata con l'uva, a classic Italian flatbread studded with grapes, and a hunk of nutty cheese; the soup of the day- a hearty chicken broth with toasted bread, beans, kale, squash, tomatoes, herbs and cheese- the perfect fix for a chilly afternoon; the seasonal tortelli- bursting with ricotta, lemon and herbs, and topped with chunky tomato basil sauce and salty parmigiano; a bowl of the sautéed wild mushrooms with creamy polenta, braised beet greens, tomatoes, and grated parmigiano- too rich to finish, but not for lack of trying; and the spaghetti carbonara- tender pasta in a creamy-cheesy sauce with crispy bacon. And if that weren't enough, we each ordered dessert. I almost skipped it as the kitchen was out of its famous frittole- ricotta fritters with warm chocolate sauce and whipped cream- but I was too intrigued by the special dessert of the day, squash gelato. With all the flavors of a sweet pumpkin pie and served with nut brittle, the squash gelato was exceptional. We also sampled the torta di pere e cioccollato- warm whipped cream aside moist pear cake with chunks of bitter chocolate under a heavy dusting of confectioner's sugar; and the affogato al cafe- vanilla ice cream and crushed almond praline drowned in hot coffee. Thanksgiving is all about tradition (and eating!)- and this is one meal I wouldn't mind making a yearly day-before-Thanksgiving tradition...I just have to get Amanda and Matt to agree.