Al di La is a restaurant that's been on my list of restaurants to try for years. YEARS! I'd always been impressed by how the reviews remained stellar after all this time. Finally, on a Friday evening recently, I decided to hit it. The restaurant has a no-reservations policy and a lot of the reviews comment on how long the wait could be. So I decided that I'd dine alone since it's always easier to get a seat if you are just one person and I also decided I'd eat at Al Di La Vino, which was an extension of the original restaurant, was right next door to the original Al di La and shared the same menu.
Since I was going to be in Brooklyn and I'm the CHUBBYgourmet for a reason, I decided to also leave some stomach space for the newcomer Seersucker - been really craving some good shrimp and grits.
Al Di La Vino
607 Carroll Street
(between 4th Ave & 5th Ave)
I was lucky indeed! There was already a wait by the bar for larger groups of people but as a solo diner, I was seated right away on a stool by the bar. I definitely wanted to try their signature dishes with my first foray into Al di La. I began with the Sepia with Oxtail on Polenta. It was definitely tasty and had a good amount of heat from the chili that flavored the gravy. I also liked the perfectly creamy texture of the polenta. My only complaint was that the polenta was definitely quite bland and there wasn't quite enough of the oxtail and gravy to go with the entire dish of polenta:
The cazunziei was definitely the winner in my mind. The sauce was what made it so amazing. To me, it tasted like a pool of butter, parmesan cheese and poppy seeds. All that texture and flavor was just begging to be slurped up, licked up and mopped up, every last drop. The faint sweetness from the beet and ricotta stuffing and the super thin and tender ravioli pasta that encased everything certainly helped to round out the entire dish and served as a really good backdrops to the fabulous dish.
I'd certainly come back again just for the casunziei, but I may still dine solo just to beat the crowds.
329 Smith St
(at Carroll St)
The shrimp and grits were just meh. The flavors overall were ok. However the bits of ham were rubbery and I was surprised that the gravy was a bit watery. The shrimp was fresh and large but it didn't save the dish. I don't feel like I'd come back again.