129 Gates Ave, Fort Greene 718-622-9202
Reservations a must
Price Range: For two: $40-60 (w/out booze)
There’s something magical about this tiny Tuscan restaurant, disguised as an old-time pharmacy on a sleepy Fort Greene street. The façade still advertises the Lewis Drug Store, but peek through the window where the pharmacist once prepared potions and pills — the back room is now a kitchen where a new collection of remedies are cooked up for ailing customers. Need a taste of the warm Italian countryside? Choose a terra cotta dish of juicy olives, marinated with citrus fruit, peppercorns, rosemary or thyme. Suffering from those late-winter blues? We’ll get some ribollita for you — a traditional peasant soup, with soft bread melting into rich tomato broth. Tired of those dry, off-season house salads? Here, tender baby greens are topped with figs and gorgonzola, and a raspberry vinaigrette complements creamy avocado and plump dried apricots. You’ll be healed just in time to enjoy the pasta course. If you don’t know your tagliatelle from your papparedelle, your friendly waiter will gladly pull up a chair and draw the different pasta shapes on your brown paper tablecloth. From the simple gnocchi with tomato and basil, to the chestnut lasagnette (that’s a flat, rectangular noodle, like lasagna) with chick peas and luganega sausage, you can’t go wrong.
For a light meal, a salad and bowl of pasta will do the trick, but the portions are small enough (and the prices reasonable enough), that you’ll be curious about the main courses, too. Splurge on the seafood guazetto, a shellfish stew served in a bowl lined with thin rounds of oranges, lemons, and crusty bread, or the oh-so-tender braised duck, seasoned with rosemary — it’s like buttah. The house wine is sold “by consumption,” so if you don’t finish your bottle, owner Francois Louy — decked out in a jacket with tails and Chuck Taylors — will whip out a large ruler, dramatically measure what’s left, and charge you only for what you drank. Theatrics are part of the charm here, and expect special attention if you show up in an all-female party. (If Francois gets out of hand, his wife and co-owner, Catherine, will emerge from behind the bar and offer to carry him away.) The ever-changing dessert menu may include a chocolate tart or a lovely ricotta cake, kissed with rosewater — but if you want to make Francois proud (and by this point, you will), order the cheese plate, which is balanced with a delicately sweet onion marmalade.