There’s nothing we love more than a neighborhood favorite restaurant that we’ve never heard of. Such was the case with Locanda Vini e Olii when it started popping up as the subject of emails to us a few years back. Hell, a few years back we’d barely heard of this neighborhood itself. Where is Clinton Hill? Harlem?
It took us a while, but we finally made a trek out to this Northern Italian restaurant that we’ve been hearing so much about. What we can tell you is that we’d love this place too if we lived down the street. But when it comes to traveling this far for dinner, there are probably other restaurants in the area that we’d rather be. So why the local love affair? I think there are a few things that make Locanda Vini e Olii so popular around these parts. First of all, the food is good. It’s genuinely Northern Italian, and if you’re impressed by authenticity, this menu will push your buttons. Second, the restaurant itself is ridiculously charming. They basically converted an old pharmacy and made it look like Il Buco in Brooklyn. It’s prime Date Night material based on aesthetic alone, and honestly, if you can’t close the deal after bringing someone to a cozy, rustic restaurant like this, then you’re probably going to be alone forever. Third, there’s an excellent wine list that’s very reasonably priced. And finally, the staff is really, really nice. So add that all up, and it’s no mystery why the people of Clinton Hill, Ft. Greene, and Brooklyn in general are so fond of this restaurant.
Ultimately for us, even though there was a lot we liked about Locanda Vini e Olii, we just didn’t love it enough to slap a crazy high rating on it and send people from all parts of the city rushing to dinner here. We are spoiled in New York in the fact that there is a restaurant like this in almost every neighborhood around town. Consider yourself lucky if this one is yours.
Charcuterie Della Terra
This was an impressive spread of various house made charcuterie – pheasant with grape, duck stuffed with pork and pistachio, and pig’s head terrine. It was all tasty, but honestly, the best thing about this dish is the fried dough that’s served with it. We asked for extra. You should too.
Spicy Baby Octopus
Know that this is not one octopus arm like you see at many other restaurants. This is a bowl of full bodied, full on squirmies that have been stewed in tomato and garlic. Delicious, but not what you might be expecting.
This was probably our favorite from the Antipasti section, a sort of cauliflower soufflé over baby spinach. Order it.
This is a “traditional Tuscan bread soup,” and we were definitely surprised to find that it was barely a soup at all. Apparently the tradition here is to use so much bread that this more resembles a stuffing. There’s really no broth. Either way it was an interesting dish, and we liked it. Not sure we’d order it again though.
Saffron Guitar Strings “Con Le Sarde”
An interesting pasta dish that consists of mashed fresh sardines, dill, raisins, and pine nuts. We’re down with sardines, so we were down with this, but not every one is. Don’t get cute if you know you don’t like the fishy stuff.
Tagliatelle “Al Ragu” with Orange Zest
This was a nice, hearty tagliatelle dish, but that orange zest packs a punch. We were surprised by just how much orangey flavor it added to the pasta, and maybe didn’t love it so much.
THYME Maltagliati with Roasted Mushrooms
This is probably our favorite pasta from the menu, thanks mostly to a whole bunch of mushrooms. Maltagliati pasta is traditionally the leftover scraps from other pasta that’s been made that day, so the result is a bunch of random shapes and sizes on one plate. Order this.
Black Pepper Pici
Another good pasta option, this one of the eggless variety with lots of black pepper, tarragon, and grana padano cheese. Liked it, didn’t love it. Maybe we’re just spoiled on over the top pastas at places like L’Artusi.