It’s no secret that I am in love with most of chef Andrew Carmellini’s restaurants in the city, starting with the rustic Italian paradise Locanda Verde. I’ve always been enamored with how chef Carmellini’s kitchen always seems to achieve brilliance with such effortlessness and simplicity of ingredients and technique. When his NoHo Hospitality team decided to venture outside Manhattan to open a new project inside the William Vale hotel in Williamsburg, though, I wondered whether he was stretching a little bit too thin. I haven’t been to the William Vale hotel up to the point I had visited Leuca, but from the looks of it, it seemed totally out of place in the Williamsburg neighborhood with its giant, intimidating building and glitzy decors, although it seemed like a great place to go to the rooftop in the summer, in direct competition to the Wythe Hotel that was ruling the Brooklyn rooftop scene until then. Hotel restaurants are always a tricky proposition. Locanda Verde was such a great exception because even though it is attached to the Greenwich Hotel in TriBeCa, it really functioned like a standalone dining space with its distinct vibe. On the other hand, would Leuca be buried under the lights from the brand-new William Vale and at the same lose its identity (and, even worse, quality of food)? My recent visit with my girlfriend showed enough from the restaurant that I think Leuca is not just a cheesy hotel restaurant, or (thankfully) a copycat of Locanda Verde.
The menu at Leuca focuses on southern Italian cuisine. Locanda Verde has been famous for its sheep’s milk ricotta cheese, and the one in Leuca was equally delicious, this time accompanied by hot honey and garlic that gave a pleasantly spicy kick that my girlfriend just couldn’t stop raving about. We also enjoyed fire-roasted cabbage with Caesar flavors, which tasted a bit too salty at first but over time grew on us as we learned that the salty sensation really came from anchovy and nothing else. We also ordered a pizza pie and a pasta dish. The OG pizza with pepperoni, nduja and Fresno chili was serviceable, but it would’ve been even better if seasoning were slightly toned down. On the other hand, the big surprise for us was the black shells pasta accompanied by ruby shrimp and local calamari that displayed really nice balance of flavor and texture. It’s not often that you don’t get bored with a pasta dish from start to finish, but we savored every single scoop. For dessert, we went with the server’s recommendation and ordered Sicilian pistachio cake with olive oil ice cream, which was so delightfully (but not overwhelmingly sweet) that, even though we were quite full by the time this dish came out, we finished it within a minute!
Getting a reservation wasn’t too difficult, and the restaurant space is quite large, so you may get lucky and have an opportunity to dine at Leuca without a reservation. There is full bar with extensive Italian wine selections with emphasis on southern Italy and Sicily. The dining space feels more modern and geometrical than Locanda Verde but overall it still works as a trendy yet comfortable space where you can take your date or have a casual dinner with friends. I’m glad Leuca stands on its own as a viable Italian restaurant in the Williamsburg dining scene notwithstanding its presence in the William Vale hotel. It seems chef Carmellini has struck a nice balance of opening a shining new project that still ensures that the quality of food from his other fine restaurants stays on.
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.0/10
Address: 111 North 12th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11249
Telephone: (718) 581-5900