LaRina Does Pasta Right
Italian for "poutine": Home fries
Chef Silvia Barban, born and raised in northern Italy, opened LaRina Pastificio e Vino in Fort Greene this August, having supplied Clinton Hill with her homemade noodles at Aita restaurant since 2014. Her team has appropriated a Fellini quote as a kind of mantra: "Life is a combination of magic and pasta." These four nouns leap out upon entering LaRina — one walks into a high-ceilinged haven bustling with pasta-twirlers in every combination (families, dates, solitary brunchers), the life of the place is palpable, and one step into the back garden offers a mellow (though chilly) bulb-lit magic. Visitors are greeted by smiling staff who seem somehow unanimously freckled, either on face or in soul. The alcohol is kept on handsome wooden bookshelves, and decorative white tin makes the walls look like quilts. This is an inviting space.
A pasta menu split into two columns ("Traditional" and "Thoughtful") takes up the top half of the menu: The tradizione side includes familiar pomodoro and lasagna options. Beside it, the more inventive pensiero dishes incorporate curveballs like duck ragù, octopus, and mustard greens. Appetizers and entrées are listed below the pasta for "Before or After." Several of these are worth adding to your meal. Burrata has by now become ubiquitous, but the LaRina preparation with peanuts and Castelvetrano olives is exceptional. For a rich starter, try the toasted focaccia with scallion-lemon butter, anchovies, and frisée; a lighter but equally pleasing choice is a bowl of slivered beets with figs and San Daniele prosciutto. A braised beef cheek, whole dorada fish, and mixed-meat bollito fill out the heartier proteins.
But don't let any of this ruin your pasta appetite. LaRina knows how hard it is to choose between its ten noodle dishes, and offers three- or five-pasta samplers for the indecisive. Standouts for those who want to commit to a single dish include the cocoa tagliatelle, served in a sublimely gooey walnut sauce interrupted by big chunks of mushroom. The spaghetti aglio e olio e peperoncino appears in the "Traditional" column but has been reinvigorated: The spaghetti is heavily smoked, giving the dish a surprising intensity reminiscent of mezcal. Generous handfuls of hazelnuts and chopped garlic enliven each bite. (It's worth noting for celiac spaghetti-lovers that these dishes can be prepared with handmade gluten-free pasta for an additional dollar.)
To match the abundance of the food menu, the drink list boasts "negroni on tap." After ordering one (who wouldn't), I watched the bartender leave the bar and walk out to the garden, where he picked the garnishing herbs. The house cocktail list is several pages long, followed by even lengthier run-downs of wines, amari, and grappa. These are strong, large-pour drinks that keep the pastas feeling maximum jolly. Dessert specials change daily and often involve luxurious creams (mascarpone, panna cotta).
Open seven days a week, LaRina offers an ambitious and original brunch menu including all sorts of eggs. If you're hungry, order the "Broken Egg Plate," the love child of an Italian garden and a Greek diner: two eggs any style, veggie salad, fruit, buckwheat pancake, paprika fries, and bacon. Their more sophisticated and stomach-friendly alternative is the "Santa Melanzana": poached eggs served over well-seasoned eggplant fillets (picture the eggplant like slices of toast) topped with refreshing arugula, basil, heirloom tomatoes, and goat cheese. You can add a little bulk to the Melanzana by ordering a side of "Home Fries Gratin": tomatoey potatoes served hot under a layer of melted mozzarella cheese. With a respectable cappuccino on top, you won't go home unsatisfied.
Before you leave, stop by the market counter at the back: Here you can buy underpriced fresh pasta by the pound, cacciatorini salami, truffles, anchovies, olives, and jars of homemade sauces. I took home chile rigatoni in a neat square paper box and a sweet little portion of basil pesto; it felt like a bag of jewels.
This is a full-service operation that wears every hat well. No dish on the menu costs more than twenty dollars: Starters come in largely under ten, and pastas hover around sixteen. That "negroni on tap" will run you nine bucks in a borough whose cocktails too often go for nearly double that. Two eggs at brunch costs only four. So mangia. Slurp up your pasta, it's fresh and good; make affectionate toasts over your negroni; take home a little treat for tomorrow.
LaRina Pastificio & Vino
387 Myrtle Avenue
Fort Greene, Brooklyn
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