Rucola, the recently opened Northern Italian eatery on the corner of Dean and Bond streets in Boerum Hill, is aiming to be all things to all residents.
A cozy neighborhood joint offering three squares a day, with herbs and veggies plucked from the rooftop and ingredients delivered fresh from the farm? Check.
A CSA program of sorts, where locals can purchase the weekly surplus harvest from said farms? Check.
A place where neighborhood children can pick up healthy brown bag lunches before trotting off to school? That’s in the works, too.
“It’s important for us not to just be a place that provides good, affordable food, but one that people can utilize as a real focal point for the neighborhood,” said co-owner Julian Brizzi. “We’ve been keeping the door open every day up to our launch, so people can peek in and say hello.”
Good intentions and general bonhomie is one thing, but for a restaurant, the proof is in the polenta. Can you get a good meal here or what?
Best to start off with a cocktail, being that Brizzi, a former bartender at Prime Meats, wields plenty of mixology cred.
He steered us towards the Basil Bite; thick and vibrantly orange as kiddie cough syrup, but strictly adults only — fortified with enough gin, Aperol and Cynar to knock you on your you-know-what.
Despite grappling with pre-opening hassles (Con Edison had yet to provide full power on the night we visited, forcing chef Joe Pasqualetto to improvise with only two working electric burners and no oven), the food that followed was thoughtful, satisfying, and simple — everything you could want in a rustic Italian bistro.
We began with a crisp, refreshing salad made with peppery arugula, fresh celery leaves, and radishes sliced so thinly you could see the tumbled greenery glistening underneath.
The braised short rib was a bit of a surprise, given that Rucola plans to concentrate on pastas and hearty vegetable dishes.
“This still represents what we’re about; homey Italian food done a little better,” said Pasqualetto. “Once we have all of our kitchen equipment working, and our great spring bounty from the farm, you’ll be able to really see what we can do.”
The meat was beautifully seasoned, unfailingly tender, and flanked by fat, juicy spears of grilled young asparagus.
Adding to the down-home atmosphere, Bobbie Marchand is currently doing double duty as both the pastry chef and working the front of house. So when you order her excellent ricotta tart topped with hazelnut brittle and rosemary sauce, she delivers it to the table herself.
“I’m doing very traditional, Northern Italian desserts,” she said. “We’ll be offering cookie plates, fresh-fruit crostatas, that sort of thing.”
Only time will tell if Rucola will make good on all of its big promises, but one thing’s for sure, it’s got a good shot at being an terrific neighborhood restaurant.
Rucola [190 Dean St. at Bond Street in Boerum Hill, (718) 576-3209].