The last night of our Italian vacation, my boyfriend Eli and I ate dinner on the outdoor patio of a trattoria nestled in the rolling hills of northern Italy. The husband-and-wife owners of the trattoria were doing double-duty, acting as chef and waitress, respectively.
The menu was concise and seasonal, and for our first course we selected handmade pastas: ricotta-and-speck-stuffed tortelli in a radicchio cream sauce for Eli, and pumpkin-and-porcini mushroom-stuffed tortelloni in butter and sage for me.
The mid-August heat had taken its toll on our usually voracious appetites, and the padrona suggested that we share the house antipasto plate for our second course. The generous plate of home-made fennel salami, house-cured pancetta, two types of local cheeses, and house-pickled seasonal vegetables was the perfect end to our meal; hearty but not heavy.
The deep purple, fruit-forward house wine we drank was as straightforward and convivial as the trattoria itself. Our dinner lasted a languid two hours and, at less than $25.00 per person, we felt as though we’d won some sort of rustic culinary lottery.
We arrived in New York City the following day, jet-lagged and exhausted, with no food in the house. As we peered into our empty refrigerator, we reminisced about the soulful, unhurried dinner from the night before and asked each other, “Why can’t we have a dinner like that here?” Then we remembered that we could. And, fellow Brooklyn-ites, you can too.
Noodle Pudding is an oddly-named and unassuming little restaurant in Brooklyn Heights. Because we were starving and didn’t want to risk having to wait for a table—their no-reservations policy can mean a long wait, especially on a Saturday night—we showed up around 5:30 pm. Diners, mostly families from the neighborhood, were already starting to fill the dining room. The host called nearly everyone by name; these were clearly the “regulars.”
Normally, the thought of a 5:30 dinner gives me hives: I have my whole retirement in Boca Raton to eat dinner at 5:30! Plus, the Early Bird Seating generally means lots and lots of small children. I am not a super-fan of lots and lots of small children. At Noodle Pudding, though, on this late-summer evening, the atmosphere was genteel and relaxed. Eating in the company of families from around the neighborhood seemed pleasant, homey, and right.
Eli and I were greeted warmly and led to a table near the open window. We decided to follow the same blueprint as our dinner at the trattoria just one night prior: pastas for the first course, then a lighter, shared antipasto plate to finish.
The pastas, both handmade, were excellent. The tagliatelle al ragu’ was a little saucier than the traditional Northern Italian style, but the flavor was right on the money: redolent of pork and beef, with a touch of rosemary. The gnocchi were little potato pillows, the butter and sage sauce as delicate as any we tried in Italy.
We’d seen beautifully ripe tomatoes from the nearby Farmer’s Market being delivered to the restaurant when we arrived, so we had to try the antipasto plate, with burrata, that creamiest of mozzarellas, accompanied by prosciutto and tomatoes. I’ll let the picture do the talking, but suffice it to say that all the flavors of an Italian summer were on this plate.
One of the myriad things to love about Noodle Pudding is the price point: with a glass of wine each, plus a 20% gratuity (our server was engaging and efficient), our meal still totaled less than $65.
Thanks to Noodle Pudding, we were able to make our Italian vacation last one more night.
Noodle Pudding, 38 Henry St., Brooklyn NY 11201, (718) 625-3737 Cash Only, No Reservations, Closed Mondays