Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Bed-Stuy for negronis and pinsa.
Chef Michele Baldacci and beverage director Michael Schall already run a couple of well-regarded neighborhood restaurants in Brooklyn, Locanda Vini e Olio in Clinton Hill and Camillo in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. These are comfortable, welcoming spots, with good food and lots of booze, that are useful for multiple occasions and party configurations. Date night? Catch-up dinner with four friends? Early supper with the kids? They got you covered.
Now the Camillo crew brings the same formula to central Bed-Stuy with Bar Camillo, a bilevel Roman food restaurant and Negroni-specializing bar that's easy to enjoy, albeit at like $50 a person for drinks and dinner.
The bar here is right up front, and the set-up seems nearly identical to its Prospect Lefferts forbearer, with wooden, low-backed stools. Head past the kitchen toward the back for the main dining room, a utilitarian space energized by the promise, just behind those glass doors, of a backyard patio that will open this spring. There's also a downstairs dining area, though this didn't come into play during my two meals last week.
The main event at Bar Camillo are the Pinsas, with ten varieties both meaty and vegetarian. The format of the pinsa falls firmly within familiar pizza territory—oven-blasted dough covered in toppings—but the wheat, soy, and rice flour crust, which is given a full 48 hours of rising time, is more airy and light than you may be used to. It's not a cracker crust by any means, but it's not chewy either. It really eats more like flatbread. And, as prepared here, it's surprisingly tangy and absolutely delicious.
The kitchen is generous with their toppings too. The Funghi, for example, was buried in barely-charred mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, a blanket of melted mozzarella and provolone beneath. Same with the Salsiccia and Friarielli, the funky crumbled sausage and bitter broccoli rabe smoothed out by a bit of tomato sauce and a layer of gooey cheese. It seems likely that you can order any of the ten on offer and be happy.
The other dishes I ate at Bar Camillo didn't live up to the promise of the pinsa. The Insalata di Cicoria was probably the best of the antipasti I tried—the grapes and shredded ricotta salata paired nicely with the crisp chickories—but the two crocks of vegetables, one Cauliflower based, the other mostly Artichoke hearts, were too mushy and tasted solely of oil and salt. The Baked Cacio e Pepe was the biggest disappointment, with thick lasagne noodles drowning in a mild cream sauce, barely any pepper and not nearly enough cheese to get any oven-baked chewy goodness going on.
The pinsas are fantastic at Bar Camillo, and it's a comfortable place to spend some time eating them. And if you want to explore the world of Negronis, this is the spot: there are nine different versions available, each for $10.
Bar Camillo is located at 333 Tompkins Avenue, between Monroe Street and Gates Avenue, and is open Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight, and on Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. (347-533-6340; barcamillo.com)