Memories of Grandma's Popcorn Inspire 'Burnt Flour' Pasta at Bushwick's Faro

Grano arso rigatoni with morels, chili, rosemary and parmesan breadcrumbs
Grano arso rigatoni with morels, chili, rosemary and parmesan breadcrumbs
Karen Tedesco for The Village Voice

Every day in his kitchen at Faro (436 Jefferson Street, Brooklyn; 718-381-8201), chef Kevin Adey mills flour to make pasta, after toasting organic whole grains and semolina until they smell “amazing.” Adey recently opened the restaurant with his wife Debbie and business partner Daniel Blumberg, offering a focused menu that revolves around carefully sourced produce, sustainable meats, seafood and a variety of housemade pastas, including some made with grano arso or “burnt flour.”

Faro (a Greek word for “lighthouse”) is where Adey, previously executive chef at Northeast Kingdom, aims to showcase as many local raw ingredients as possible, not only to make all the pasta, but the bread and butter too.

After space became available just a few blocks from the couple's home in Bushwick, it took many more months of work and planning to transform the former MOMA storehouse into the comfortable dining room they imagined. “We really care how people interact with the space,” Adey tells the Voice. “I had a vision of exactly what we wanted to do with the design of it — an open kitchen, wood, well-lit and spacious.”

Faro chef/owner Kevin Adey
Faro chef/owner Kevin Adey
Karen Tedesco for The Village Voice

Their handmade aesthetic carries over to the tables, benches and hand-thrown dinnerware, all made by local Brooklyn artisans.

A wood-fired oven anchors one end of the airy room, where Adey is turning out an assortment of breads made with fresh-milled flour; seasonal roasted vegetables, seafood and meats sourced from a farm in upstate New York.

While the menu leans Italian — squid ink chitarra pasta with shellfish and Calabrian chili, pork cheek lasagna, and wood-fired scallops with bottarga and emmer wheat — the chef emphasizes his food “is not Italian, necessarily. I've never been to Italy, but in America everyone has their own opinion on Italian food. We're not a red-sauce Italian joint.”

Faro's wood-fired oven
Faro's wood-fired oven
Karen Tedesco for The Village Voice

Rather, Adey describes his cooking as seasonal American, with a focus on pasta. He says the inspiration to make pasta with grano arso, a centuries-old method invented by Italian peasants out of necessity, actually comes from a source closer to home; his Irish grandmother's popcorn.

“The real idea of the grano is popcorn, of which I believe is proof that god exists.” Adey explains. “When I was a kid, we'd stay at my grandmother's house, and she made the best popcorn ever, in a pan on top of the stove. It had this great taste to it. Then, when I was 24 or 25 years old, my brother comes to visit me and he makes it and it takes forever. The popcorn finally pops and it tastes amazing, just like my grandmother's. I was like, dude, what did you do?”

Asparagus with crab
Asparagus with crab
Karen Tedesco for The Village Voice

It turns out that Adey's brother cooked the corn kernels low and slow, which was the same way their grandmother used to make it. “I started thinking about the Maillard reaction, and keeping food in a caramelization zone for as long as possible.” That revelation led the chef to experiment with toasting whole grains, and making fresh pasta with the “scorched” flour. “That was the real genesis, my younger brother and my grandmother's popcorn.”

Ember-roasted beets
Ember-roasted beets
Karen Tedesco for The Village Voice

Pastas are the highlight of Faro's menu, all of which are made in house and accompanied by seasonal produce; at this moment, the selection includes grano arso rigatoni with morels, rosemary, and parmesan chili breadcrumbs, caserecce with English peas, pea shoots and prosciutto, and gnocchi sardi with braised goat, artichoke and ricotta.

In addition to the pastas, there are appetizers like sweet pea porridge, made with house-milled grain, mushrooms and whey; spinach and buttermilk soup, dandelion greens with sunflower-crusted chevre and garlic confit, and main courses like a beef strip loin with silage roasted potatoes (potatoes packed in fermented grass usually used for cow feed) and foie jus, Mallard duck breast with rhubard, fennel and honey, and skate wing with carrot, radish and cumin vinaigrette. 

Adey is also preparing desserts to accompany his rustic fare; most notably a bread pudding and a panna cotta with polenta cake and strawberries. 

The bar program at Faro is designed by Justin Lane Briggs, formerly of Applewood and Gin Palace, drawing from a collection of small-batch spirits for his creative cocktails; Debbie Adey put together the short-but-sweet wine list with more than a dozen organic and biodynamic choices and a Finger Lakes rosé (on tap), as well 5 draft beers, all from NYC craft brewers.


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