It’s a common phenomenon in Brooklyn: a chef creates an ambitious restaurant only to later downscale it to a more casual place in hopes of better capturing the neighborhood market. We’ve seen it happen at Cucina/Tempo, Minnow/Bar Minnow, and Luce/Bar Toto. This scenario recently played out again on Smith Street, along Boerum Hill’s restaurant row. The space used to be a somewhat far-reaching (for the area) Japanese restaurant called Taku, under chef Adam Shepard. But now Shepard has rejiggered the spot into a modern Italian restaurant, La Lunetta.
Small plates abound on the seasonally shifting menu. One of the most interesting variations on a familiar theme is the bruschetta with ricotta. Impeccably fresh cheese is mixed with lemon and makes for a simple but perfect complement to salty grilled bread ($3). Ravioletti, adorable miniature ravioli, comes in a rich sauce with mixed mushrooms ($14). These are not the usual delicate pillows of pasta though; they are cooked al dente and have real bite, with a pumpkin filling as dense as Asian bean paste. Among the entrees is a braised pork belly with gigante beans ($11). The current rage for this (exceedingly fatty) cut of meat leads one to wonder: What’s happening with the rest of all those poor pigs? Here the main attraction is really not the meat itself (which is not as tender as it should be) but the soupiness around it, with creamy beans there to sop up the sauce. Around ten wines are available in the appropriately fashionable carafe (500 ML, around $20). It’s just the right amount for a couple to share generously.
The outlook is positive for La Lunetta. These comfortably stylish dishes, combined with the restaurant’s unobtrusively chic décor, make more sense for Boerum Hill than the chef's last effort. Sometimes it takes two tries to succeed.