It’s not often that you meet a restaurant owner in Rome and discover that he also has a spot in your home town. Last Summer, I was encouraged to try Pierluigi in Rome, as it not only featured dining alfresco, but was supposed to have some of the best Roman food around. In fact, my political Editor, Frank D. Pond, tells me that Nancy Pelosi told him, that whenever she’s in Rome she makes Pierluigi her first stop. Pierluigi not only lived up to the hype, but remains the most memorable dining experience I had during my 3-weeks in Europe. Quintessentially Roman dishes like Cacio e
Pepe, and squash blossoms filled with mouth watering Italian mozzarella were delicious and prepared to perfection. We adored our server and were pleased to have owner, Lorenzo Lisi sit down with us at the conclusion of our meal to chat with us about how he’s tried to create a cocktail culture at Pierluigi, in a city that is more wine focused. He also told me about his new restaurant in Brooklyn, named Antica Pesa. I’ve now dined at Antica Pesa in Brooklyn 3-times, and although I live in Manhattan, I have no issues making the short jaunt over to Williamsburg to feast on truly exceptional Roman cuisine.
The restaurant has just celebrated a year in Williamsburg, and I just discovered that the original Antica Pesa is in one of my favorite neighborhoods in Rome, Trastevere. Like Williamsburg, Trastevere is across the river from the main center, but is sort of a best kept secret. Filled with vibrant bars, restaurants, shopping and hip crowds, the owners of Antica Pesa chose Williamsburg to mirror the locale for Antica Pesa here in the states.
The design of Antica Pesa features beautiful amber lighting from dome shaped lamps that extend from the high industrial ceilings. Dark wood and a prominent bar are masculine and sexy, but the curved half circle couches add privacy and
sensuality. A featured lounge in the middle of the restaurant is inviting, and the open kitchen remind guests that the food is the star and reason for making return visits.
The chef and team at Antica Pesa may stem from a long lineage of Roman cuisine, but they understand the way today’s diner in the city likes to eat, which is fresh, local, and typically lighter than years past. It’s usually mandatory in Italy to order a primi (first course), pasta, and Secondi (entree), plus dessert, which the latter can be optional. As much as I love to dine in that scenario, I must admit, I’ve got places to go throughout the night, and this plan will have me in a total food coma. At Antica Pesa the servers are extremely knowledgeable and perceptive educating and advising given the party’s taste and mood. In fact the energy of the servers and maitre’d are part of the reason to return for multiple visits helping to make Antica Pesa quite memorable.
On my most recent visit I shared the Crudo e Buffalo Croccante which was both light and savory and paired perfectly with a glass of Franciacorte, my new personal choice over Prosecco. We couldn’t help but order the two signature Roman pastas on the menu: Cacio e Pepe and Schiaffoni All’Amatriciana. I’ve had both in Rome, and what’s superb about the two is the simplicity in ingredients: great pasta, spice, rich tomato for All’Amatriciana, and pecorino used in both. As simple as both pastas appear, it takes an expert chef to perfect these ingredients, and serve to order. Our waiter suggested we order both pastas, and the chef would divide a half portion onto each of our plates, which was heavenly. Since my friend and I were feeling a bit full, our waiter suggested we wait until after finishing our pastas to see if we would like to order two entrees, one or call it a day. We were feeling a bit full, and to our surprise he suggested we share the one and only vegetarian dish on the menu, Tart Tatin Di Funghi E Parmigiano. Neither my friend or I are vegetarians, but we welcomed the fresh suggestion, especially since both of us adore mushrooms. The tart featured glazed portobello mushrooms in saba (a grape syrup), parmigiano foam and truffle oil. The light, yet hearty dish was satisfying, earthy and left us feeling completely satiated and happy.
Kudos to the entire team at Antica Pesa, my new home away from home. From the welcoming and warm greeting to the expert strategizing on putting together a perfect meal with wine, to the splendid and fun service, and finally to an exit that will have you planning your next trip out to Williamsburg, Antica Pesa delivers on a multitude of sensory experiences. Visit AnticaPesa.com