276 Smith Street, South Brooklyn
Seated in the front booth beside Arthur’s long, tall window, our family of three felt like the inhabitants of a snow globe. We had trudged two blocks through the November nor’easter’s fat flakes and sidewalk slush, carrying our toddler from stoop to high chair. Elliott Smith, Bob Dylan and Morrissey—punctuated by the hissing of heat through radiator pipes—provided the soundtrack for our cinematic scene in this low-light, wood-paneled enclave. We snacked on toasted bread, heavily crusted with sesame seeds and spread with honey and butter. A fizzy Breukelen gin cocktail, garnished with a sprig of rosemary, paired perfectly with the tender octopus and smoky, paprika-rich romesco sauce ($15) that tasted like our honeymoon in Barcelona. In other words, if you’re comfortable with embracing your inner yupster, this place can’t be beat.
On Google, Arthur’s tagline is “Seasonal fare, Italian influences, indie soundtrack,” which may sound a bit contrived, even for those of us who admittedly love all three of these things. When we asked our server if she knew who put together the playlist, she said it was a Pandora station, and we felt a little lame for being sucked in by a logarithm. The seasonal Italian fare is as formulaic as the tunes, but here’s the thing—it works. The house-made tagliatelle, lightly dressed in lemon, Parmigiano and cream, melts in your mouth, and the giant shrimp tossed with the pasta have the juicy, oceanic, succulent bite of just-steamed lobster ($19). Broad bands of pappardelle take the mouth-watering house-made noodles in a more rustic direction—with spicy lamb sausage, a touch of red sauce, a sprinkling of sharp, aged pecorino and a kick of black pepper ($19). We’ll be back for all the whimsical, locally sourced clichés—the burrata with black figs ($16), the heirloom carrot salad ($10), and the farm-raised pork chop with fingerlings and pickled peppers ($27)—because it doesn’t matter if the menu reads like a Portlandia sketch when every bite of food is utterly delicious.
Though the log-cabin elegance of the dining room doesn’t seem at all geared toward children, they’ve got a “Bambino” menu, featuring grilled Fontina sandwiches ($7) and house-made fish sticks ($8). The al dente spaghetti and whole spices in the meatballs ($8) didn’t win over our one-year-old, though he may have just been saving room for dessert. The sweet-salty flavors that opened the meal came back to close it in the form of a butterscotch budino a la mode topped with duck-fat popcorn. The taste of duck wasn’t discernible, but the salty crunch of popcorn makes a perfect ice-cream topping, and I’ve been dreaming of the rich, just-sweet-enough butterscotch pudding ever since.