The homestyle Italian restaurant Va beh' opened earlier this week on Dean Street near Fifth Avenue, and yesterday I had a chance to sample some of their culinary offerings. Run by the husband and wife duo of Michele and Qiana Di Bari along with their good friend Andrea, who designed the space, it's a labor of love for Michele, who focused on the same dishes his family eats at home, using the highest-quality ingredients.
"All these recipes are from Italy," he told me. "They're simple, but with recipes so simple you need to do it right, because there's nowhere to hide. Nothing's embellished."
I started with a trio of crostini ($7 each), which make for a great snack, especially when accompanied by a $6 glass of tap prosecco or red wine. Simplicity ruled in all of them: Prosciutto crudo (top), marinated artichoke, above, and Sicilian tuna with olive oil and lemon, below, came atop toasted bread from Bensonhurst standby Royal Crown.
After that came a couple standbys, veal meatballs (above) and Eggplant Parmiggiana (below), both based on old Di Bari family recipes, and both delicious. The meatballs were tender and nicely browned, and the eggplant was creamy and could be cut wth a spoon (without being mushy). Both were elevated by a chunky tomato sauce that tasted like it was made by a very skilled grandma.
Next came two pasta dishes, tagliatelle al ragu (above) and garlicky cavatelli with Luganega sausage and brocolli rabe (below). Both were as comforting as a bowl of pasta can be, and there's some real skill in the preparation. Pastas are made in-house, and the cavatelli had that chew that's hard to come by. For $11, they're the best plates of pasta for the value in the neighborhood.
By this point I was about ready for a nap, but had to try dessert. I opted for the chocolate panna cotta, which was far more thick, dense, and creamy than it had any right to be.
It's nice to see an Italian restaurant with zero pretensions, serving simple, familiar dishes prepared with delicacy and an eye on quality. Over the next couple weeks they'll be rolling out delivery and catering, as well as the neighborhood's only Benedict-free brunch, instead focusing on simple dishes like toasted bread with prosciutto and poached eggs.
Va beh', 446 Dean Street Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-678-4200.