All the dining set pieces of Williamsburg's latest skyline piercer The William Vale came into place last month when the hotel's restaurant, Leuca, opened for service. Chef and restaurateur Andrew Carmellini looked to Southern Italy for his inspiration, even decorating the room with old ceramic pots behind glass cases like an archeological museum. The alluring design's somewhat incongruous with the surrounding warehouse buildings and motorcycle shops, but heralds the new normal for the increasingly luxe neighborhood.
But the food's damn tasty, especially the smaller dishes like "La Scarpett's," dips that can accompany baskets of gratis Sicilian-style bread studded with sesame seeds. The garlicky sheep's milk ricotta melts in your mouth while simultaneously firing it up with sticky hot honey. An antipasti of cabbage—roasted and tossed in "Caesar flavors"—surprises with its intensity and the buttery crunch of toasted bread crumbs. You haven't seen cabbage as a sex symbol til now.
This being an homage to Italy, pastas and pizza are expected and appreciated. Sheets of fazzoletti pasta envelop bits of goat meat, with a goat butter sauce adding more lusciousness The OG pizza utilizes pepperoni and nduja sausage for salt and heft. A pro tip gleaned from our server: save some of that ricotta dip to slather on bites of the pie.
Trendy amari are recommended post-meal, but grappa's a less-commonly endorsed spirit and worth dipping in a tentative toe. It took trying grappa to realize I don't like grappa, but I said that about olives the first time I had them and have since seen the error of my taste buds.
With the grand hotel setting, well-appointed and romantic scene, and crowd-pleasing menu of gourmet Italian comfort food, Leuca's bound to succeed. As a bonus, it's romantic enough for a special date and quiet enough to dine with your parents, a winning if unexpected combination.
111 North 12th Street, inside the William Vale hotel, 718-581-5900; leuca.com