I realize that Mario Batali is one of those figures - like Martha Stewart - whom people either love or hate. And, like Martha Stewart, I love him. Yeah, I've read all the negatives things about him, his footwear and his temper but I don't care: his food is really, really good. I've never eaten at the Cornelia Street restaurant Po, either before or after Batali's tenure there, but the newly-opened Brooklyn location offered us the chance to sample some great trattoria fare which seems to still bear some of Molto Mario's influences.
Po recenlty opened on Smith Street, confirming what Brooklynites have been witnessing over the past two or three years: the bisto is Over, and the trattoria is In. Po joins Lunetta, Frankies Sputino and Boca Lupo in offering the neighborhood rustic, casual Italian food with nary a red sauce to be found.
We went on Saturday night, and enjoyed the meal very much although the hosts were so flustered in seating us that I considered for a minute heading somewhere else to eat. There was about a 10 minute wait for a table of two, which on a Saturday night was no problem whatsoever for my husband and me, but the initial process of giving our names to the hostess just seemed to cause a sort of...commotion. It was fine once we were seated, but the front of the house was so flustered that it almost made me uncomfortable.
But, the food! Was really quite good. Once seated, we were given dense, chewy Italian bread and two bruschetta topped with white beans in marinade. These I loved, and would happily have ordered for the $2 they are listed for on the menu. I started with the cured tuna antipasti which I plan to replicate at home as soon as possible. Chunk of cured tuna were tossed with fennel, white beans, artichoke, red onion and (I think) some frisee lettuce (or maybe savoy cabbage?). It was hearty and refreshing at the same time, and the chili mint vinaigrette livened up every flavor in the dish. Kevin started with a special appetizer of figs and melon with prosciutto, drizzled in a balsamic reduction and topped with shaved Parmesan Reggiano -- can I just say how much I enjoy fig season, because really, what is better? Yum.
I had a pasta dish for my entree; continuing the white bean theme I ordered the white bean ravioli in a balsamic brown butter sauce. Come October, I will like this dish a lot more, I predict. The pasta itself was delicious and tender, and the white bean filling was delicious, but the balsamic brown butter sauce was a little too rich for me; with every bite I kept thinking, This tastes like dessert. Or Autumn. Don't get me wrong: I ate the whole thing, but the brown butter was just a little too much for me.
Kevin was feeling carnivorous and opted for the skirt steak which was served over green beans and roasted red peppers. I think both of us are eager to go back to Po in order to sample some of the other pastas as well as the guinea hen, which I hear is fantastic.
We had a bottle of delicious sangiovese which I believe started with an "O" and I realize that it completely non-helpful, but it was fantastic and apparently, not on the on-line wine list. For dessert, we split the Po sundae, which is a scoop of mint gelato topped with hot fudge and spicy pine nuts. As someone who has little or no interest in hot fudge sundaes I have to say, This was pretty good. The mint was milder than I expected, but the crunch of the pine nuts was an excellent touch.
The food was good enough that I am eager to go back and keep looking at the menu on-line trying to decide what I want to try next. The service was good, and the room is cozy but comfortable. I'm not sure how many more casual Italian sputino and trattoria-style restaurants the Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill/Boreum Hill crowd can support, but I think there is definitely room for Po.
Po Brooklyn (781 875 1980) is located at 276 Smith Street, between Sackett and DeGraw, and accepts American Express.