The Early Word: O’Barone in Red Hook


O’Barone just opened three weeks ago, in the old 360 spot on Van Brunt in Red Hook. It’s owned and operated by chef-owner Fulvio Leone, who hails from the northern region of Lombardy, Italy–but his mom comes from Austria, hence specials like pork schnitzel. The room is simple and inviting, with a large map of Italy hanging behind a small bar, and candles on the wooden tables. Prices are fair–averaging $8 for an appetizer and $12 for a main. The wine list is all-Italian, and could use a few bottles in the $20 range, but we settled on a Tuscan red for $32, which did the trick.

The menu is, for the most part, fairly generic Italian–dishes like tagliatelle with mushrooms, cheese ravioli, and yellow and red pepper lasagna. But last night, there was also a special of bread gnocchi, which Leone said was the only authentic dish from Lombardy that he was serving. Well, if you’re only going to do one, this is a stellar dish to start with–hopefully Leone will start serving more dishes from his home. Bread gnocchi are made by soaking bread crumbs and then making a dough of them with eggs and Parmesan. Leone then forms them into oblongs that look exactly like Jimmy Dean sausages, boils them, and serves them in a sauce of melted butter, Parmesan, rosemary, and tiny dice of roasted butternut squash. It was wonderful.

Actually, with the exception of the under-salted tagliatelle, everything we sampled was extremely well-made. Even a simple lentil salad with grilled asparagus and apples was lively, much better than it had to be, and the fresella with tomato and buffalo mozzarella–that’s a ring of hard bread that’s re-hydrated and topped with the cheese and tomatoes–was perfect. (That’s the fresella to the right; terrible cell phone photo on account of a camera malfunction.)

The meal ended with tiny glasses of Leone’s homemade limoncello, sweet and tart. This is a very promising neighborhood Italian joint.

360 Van Brunt, Red Hook, Brooklyn