Transport yourself to a restaurant in the heart of Rome, Italy. Freshly prepared pastas, thinly sliced melt in your mouth prosciutto, different cheeses grated table side for different dishes. Attractive waiters saying “grazie” with a huge, glowing smile. You feel at home, you feel part of their warm Italian family.
Hop on the L train into Williamsburg, and you can discover an Italian dream right off the Bedford stop. The original outpost of Antica Pesa resides in Rome, Italy, with the owners bringing their tricks of the trade to us New Yorkers.
The atmosphere is simple, and slightly romantic without trying too hard. It’s warm and inviting with dark wood and bright, abstract lighting.
Attentive knowledgeable staff assist with wine selections, portions and of course, suggestions. They informed us for parties of 3, they could create 1 1/2 portions, allowing each person to have their fair share of the food. This was especially crucial with their insane Crudo e Bufala Croccante appetizer.
I could eat this every day of my life and always want more. The prosciutto is cured for 20 months to create an intense flavor. It’s sliced thin allowing the meat to just melt in your mouth. And the burrata, I dream of you. The rich mozzarella contains a silky, soft ricotta-like cheese. Wrap that in crispy filo-dough and you are pretty much in Italian heaven. The textures, temperatures, different flavors play off each other in such a seductive way. I think the table was silent until our flakes of filo-dough was all that remained.
The other appetizer lacked that same “wow” factor as the first. It’s the only dish of our meal that was placed on the table, rather then served table side. There’s a subtle complexity to a dish, with the cheese mousse binding the seemingly separate elements together.
The delicate ricotta and parmesan mousse holds the eggplant in place, adding a creamy sweetness to the chips. It’s an upgraded version of the traditional chips and creamy dish. It’s simple, really good for those who love eggplant as much as I do. However, if I were to come back, this would be the only dish of the evening I would choose to substitute.
The reason you come to Antica Pesa is the pasta. The delightful homemade pasta carefully crafted without any of the gimmicks. The waiter helped to craft our coursing to make sure the pasta is devoured immediately. They refuse to allow any of their food to go cold.
A wheeling table arrived again next to our table, bearing a variety of cheeses underneath a see-through dome. The waiter will recommend different options to shave on top of the pasta, to enhance the dish. All cheeses aren’t alike, parmsean is different then pecorino romano, and they were sure to get it right.
Cheese isn’t the only thing you can add to your pasta; peppers. A variety of colorful chilis vary in shape and size are served, as well. The waiter shaves or cuts pieces to the pasta, adding a beautiful kick of spice for those who crave it.
The pasta course began with two pastas, served side by side on personal dishes. We began simply, with Spaghetti Cacio E Pepe, a white pasta and Schiaffoni All’ Amatrica, a tubular pasta in a red sauce.
Fresh pasta, prepared to that ideal al dente, lightly coated in simple sauces. Italians prove that less is truly more. The Schaffoni is coated in a slightly sweet, balanced sauce with a mild kick. The saltiness comes from the guanciale, an Italian meat with adds a balance to the dish.
I adored the cacio e pepe with each piece of speghetti coated with a light cheese sauce. It’s an grown-ups version of mac and cheese, topped with a generous helping of black pepper. A dish like this can even make someone who generally loathes black pepper enjoy each bite.
The pasta portion of the meal finished with my favorite dish of the evening, the Mezze Maniche Alla Carbonara. I love pasta carbonara and the version here did not disappoint.
The carbonara sauce was outstanding, coating the smaller tubular pasta. Little pieces of crispy guanciale hid within the pieces, adding saltiness to the rich pasta. I only wish I had more of this dish. It’s that good.
The meal of Antica Pesa was wonderful from start to finish. The dishes are extremely delicious and made with serious care. It’s doesn’t fit into the traditional Williamsburg mold with slightly higher prices then one might expect on this side of the East River. Nonetheless, the service was incredible with table side service that makes each dish feel so special and intricate.
Authentic Italian food varies greatly from New York’s ‘funkified’ version of classic dishes. You certainly won’t find any uni here. Antica Pesa breaks the city mold, by sticking to its Italian roots. It’s rustic, it’s simple, and it’s damn delicious.
Antica Pesa – 115 Berry Street – Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY
Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Perfect For: Authentic Dining, Date Night, Impressing Foodies, Dinner with Parents
Reservations: Recommended via OpenTable
Favorite Dishes: Crudo e Bufala Croccante, Schiaffoni All’Amatriciana, Speghetti Cacio E Pepe, Mezze Maniche Alla Carbonara