Executive Chef Matt Higgins concocts elegant interpretations of rustic Italian dishes to fill a menu that has earned praise from the New York Times for its fresh ingredients and playful flavor combinations. Toast an anniversary, birthday, or a Little League World Series title with a decadent dinner, starting with a savory saffron risotto infused with sage, pancetta, and a sprinkling of parmigiano reggianno ($12). Filet mignon dons a dapper suit of peppercorns as it lounges in a shallow brandy-cream river alongside fingerling-potato gondolas and bobbing roasted figs ($34). Plunge tines into a shrimp-and-scallop feast, laden with olives and grape tomatoes atop a creamy risotto ($28), or catapult tongues through clouds of gnocchi suspended in an eggplant-and-mozzarella-strewn sunset ($22).
L'Acqua Ristorante’s co-owners and chefs, Francesco Ippoliti and Mario Esposito, have been crafting their menu of authentic Italian eats together since August 2011. The culinary team expertly prepares tilapia contadina, as well as meat dishes such as veal L'Acqua—veal scaloppini with prosciutto and eggplant in a sherry sauce—that diners can pair with BYOB sips.
Inside the restaurant, artwork decorates colorful teal walls that match teal tablecloths and Teal, the eatery’s resident ghost dog. Candles illuminate light-brown chairs clustered together for intimate dinners or set up to accommodate private parties of up to 100 guests.
Delicate, black filigree forms a lacy aura around one of the dining-room doorways, resembling a wrought-iron gate. Across the room, a recessed archway frames a fireplace whose flame glows in harmony with the sconces on the green walls. This fusion of classical elegance with contemporary influences informs the menu, which comprises a mix of time-tested and innovative lunches and dinners.
Though contemporary Italian cuisine forms the menu's foundation, the restaurant also opens up its kitchen to Asian and American influences. Marbleized sauces join precarious sculptural arrangements to adorn plates with upscale panache. Valentino's specialties are long island duck, grouper marechiara, and a portobello appetizer, which can be enjoyed by themselves or as part of Valentino's three- or four-course dinner specials. Every single dessert, such as Anthony's bananas foster flambé, is made from scratch on the premises. In fact, all flambé desserts are seared right at the table, meaning guests can personally ensure their desserts' calories are burned. The restaurant features live music on Fridays.
At Coal, chefs stoke fiery coals inside the kitchen's pizza oven, which bakes the eatery's signature thin-crust pizzas at temperatures of up to 800 degrees. Pizzas emerge from the oven with a lightly charred, crispy crust and crowned with toppings such as meatballs, prosciutto, truffle oil, and caramelized onions. Coal also bakes its sandwiches in the pizza oven, including the saltimbocca Giorgio, with prosciutto and mozzarella on housemade bread, and roasts its chicken wings over the same glowing embers.
Alfonso Molino began flipping dough in his parents' Brooklyn pizzeria at the age of 10. Today he helms Molino's Italian Kitchen, where he and his staff adapt the philosophy "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." In doing so, they keep their traditional and pan pies uncomplicated, basking in the beautiful simplicity of a stellar pizza margherita and showcasing toppings in one of more than 20 gourmet options. In addition to the pizzas, they prepare classic Italian entrees, including chicken cacciatore and shrimp scampi, as well as local favorites such as new york strip steak.
Brooklyn-style pizzas, traditional pastas, and seafood specialties sate ravenous appetites at Carlo's, where a gluten-free menu supplements the regular bill of fare. The pizza selection ranges from the Godfather pie—with seven types of cheeses and a deli counter's worth of meats such as prosciutto, capicola, and ham ($16–$24)—to the baked ziti pizza, a match made in Italy that heaps tenderly boiled ziti pasta and mozzarella onto a doughy platter ($14–$20). Carlo's 14-inch gluten-free pizza varietal comes laden with the muncher's choice of toppings and edible crypotgrams ($19+). Under the benevolent gaze of wall sconces, shrimp scampi ($9.95–$17.95) and mussels marinara ($8.95–$14.95) decorate tables with seafood, and the menu's pasta section fills plates with favorites such as the house's trademark vodka sauce with sun-dried tomatoes, draped over one of seven pastas including spaghetti, angel hair, and rigatoni ($6.95 for lunch; $11.95 for dinner).