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Business of the Week: Al di Là

Ask ten Park Slopers what the neighborhood's best restaurant is, and most likely seven or eight will tell you Al di Là, a rustic trattoria on Fifth Avenue and Carroll Street.  It's cozy, authentic, romantic, not too expensive, and, most of all, delicious.

Since opening in 1998, Chef Anna Klinger and her husband Emiliano Coppa (who manages the front of house) have attracted a loyal following to their menu of northern Italian specialties that rarely, if ever, changes. Pastas include malfatti (ricotta and swiss chard gnocchi) in a brown butter and sage sauce, and a traditional tagliatelle al ragu (below), which has to be one of the most satisfying plates of pasta in all of Brooklyn. As a main course, sliced steak with arugula, braised rabbit with black olives and polenta, and whole young chicken with fennel salad and mashed potatoes are always good options. 

Tagliatelle al Ragu
They don't take reservations, unfortunately, and prime-time waits can stretch to over an hour. In 2004 they opened up a small wine bar just around the corner, though, and it's an ideal spot to pass the time (grab one of the seven tables and eat there if you can, the tiny dining room in there is one of the most romantic spots in town). 

They recently started serving lunch every day except Tuesday, and a lazy afternoon is one of the best times to go. It's rarely crowded during this time, and the sun streaming in brightens up the space. The lunchtime menu includes salads and sandwiches (go for the pork belly), as well as most of the dinner menu's pasta dishes (the veal ravioli in a lemon butter sauce, below, is a standout).

Veal Ravioli with Lemon Butter Sauce
Al di Là is one of those places that could easily rest on its laurels and let quality decline, as a crowd is basically guaranteed every night either way. It doesn't, though. Klinger constantly strives to deliver a flawless plate of food every time, and it's exactly that precision and consistency that cements its reputation as one of the best Italian restaurants in Brooklyn, if not the entire city. 

Al di Là Trattoria, 248 5th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11215. 718-783-4565.


Pan-Asian Vegan for Fifth and Union

The under-construction storefront at 201 Fifth Avenue (between Union and Berkeley) that's recently been home to a couple failed Japanese restaurants (Tamari, Hakone) has installed some window signage, and it looks like an outpost of Dao Palate is headed our way.

If the name sounds familiar, that's because there's a larger restaurant bearing the same name at 329 Flatbush Avenue, just opposite Seventh. It's usually bustling, and there's certainly no shortage of vegans in the area, so I'm sure many will be happy to hear that quality Asian vegan food is on its way. 

I think a second Mile End needs to open in the long-vacant pizzeria next door, just to keep things balanced here.


Help Find Lexi!

Missing dog alert! Lexi, a 2-year old German Shepherd mix who was rescued a few months ago from a feral colony in the Rockaways, went missing three days ago on Prospect Park West near Seventh Street, and is most likely somewhere in the park. Search parties are going to comb the area on Saturday, and if you can offer any help call 917-232-5562 or email There's a $500 reward if she's found. For some more info take a look at Fido Brooklyn or the post on Brooklynian.


Ghost of a Stepping Block on Fifth Street

This fairly ordinary-looking sidewalk stone might actually have a little history behind it. Back in the era of horse-drawn carriages, simply stepping out of one and down onto the sidewalk below could prove to be quite a task. The distance from the compartment to street level could be a distance of several feet, and who knew what kind of puddle or muck you could be stepping into below. 

Enter the stepping block. It was a pretty simple concept, just a square or rectangular stone usually installed right into the sidewalk, directly in front of a brownstone's stoop. They were once fairly ubiquitous (see the photo below), but they all went the way of the horse-drawn carriage and any trace of them was usually destroyed in the ensuing years, as sidewalks eventually got ripped up and replaced. 

Via Merlis And Rosensweig's "Brooklyn's Park Slope"
Even since learning about them I've subconsciously been on the lookout for the remnants of one, and it looks like I may have found it, in front of 435 Fifth Street, between Sixth and Seventh.You never know what little remnants of the past might still be hiding in plain sight.

Correction: This article originally listed the address as on Third Street; It is actually on Fifth. Apologies for the mix-up!


Any Ideas for a Grab and Go Restaurant?

It's a rarity to see a business owner actually surveying the public for ideas on what kind of food to serve at a restaurant, but hey, someone's gone and done exactly that. This new topic popped up on the Brooklynian boards this morning:
Good morning my fellow Park Slopers. I am opening a new food spot in the Slope and I wanted your opinion. I want to make a place that you will definitely want to come back to. I am looking to open up on 7th Ave (can't give you an exact location yet, but it will below 10th Street). What is something that you want to see eating wise? I am doing this for you so any and all ideas are welcomed. The spot will not be a full blown restaurant, but rather a grab and go spot with some seating areas.
Have any ideas? Suggestions are already popping up, ranging from a Brooklyn Bread-style bakery to a salad bar to a dumpling shop. I'd probably vote for something similar to Sara Jenkins' Porchetta. Head on over to the board and voice your opinion!