We here at The L Magazine are nothing if not committed to the exhaustive pursuit of accurate research and reportage, particularly when it manifests as an opportunity to eat as much food as this buttery, succulent borough has to offer. So, after an intensive process of elimination (staff meetings involving beer) and a thorough on-the-ground survey (a Facebook poll of our beloved readers, along with some old-fashioned snail email responses), we finally did it. We determined, hands down, without any shadow of a doubt, the very best restaurant in all of Brooklyn. And it’s Roman’s!
The competition for this one was stiff — Roberta's, Marlow & Sons, Vinegar Hill House, and Talde were all on the ballot — but in the end, this Italian branch of owner Andrew Tarlow's growing restaurant empire won out. And yes, it's safe to assume the man behind Marlow & Sons, Diner, and Reynard probably knows what he's doing when it comes to creating wildly popular food. But three years into its cozy life in Ft. Greene, Roman's is also thriving - they recently expanded to serve from lunch straight through dinner on weekends - thanks to an avid rotation of neighborhood regulars, chef Dave Gould's fluid, intuitive approach to menu creation, and the entire staff's lovingly obsessive attention to detail.
All photos Rory Gunderson
The Best Restaurant in Brooklyn: Roman's
We were lucky enough to sit in on prep for a recent dinner service, and sous chef Stephanie Reagor explained, "The menu changes at least 50% every day, sometimes 100%. Every single day, either David or I come in and write a new menu. There's usually half an hour or so before service starts, where some tweaking happens, whether it's changing ingredients, changing the dish altogether, adding an herb, taking something out. It's very rare that something ends up exactly on the plate as we had imagined it for the menu. The only truly static menu item is our salted chocolate sorbet."
It's also rare that any of their locally sourced produce - which arrives three times per week - ends up going to waste. Coming in to a kitchen full of sweet red peppers that day, we witnessed a bartender concoct them into a simple syrup, and later into a (superb) gin-based cocktail. It was a really tough day of reporting, as you may have guessed.
It was, however, also an edifying one. In the few minutes I spent listening to Reagor explain every detail of that night's menu to the front room staff, I learned about two vegetables I had never even known existed: cardoon (prepared like french fries, served with chili and parmigiano) and spigarello (marinated and served with a bean puree). Aha.
Family meals - usually a hasty, carbo-loaded sampling of whatever's leftover - are a thoughtful process here, too. "It's another excuse to put together a fun, creative thing," said manager Tom Budny. "I'd say it's better than any other restaurant's family meal in New York." That night, it was a serving of the menu's shrimp ravioli, alongside an off-the-menu concoction of white bean and radicchio.
"The neighborhood really feels like an authentic slice of Brooklyn," says server Blaze Lamper, who previously spent several years in Williamsburg at Diner. "It's hard to put your finger on, but you can sense it. We have an amazing number of devoted regulars, and for some reason, more than any other neighborhood I've worked in, we always have painters coming in."