The special of mackerel crudo was artistically arranged.
Almost two years ago, I reviewed Greenpoint newcomer Anella, a restaurant on the hip Franklin Street strip that replaced the legendary Queen’s Hideaway, doubling the space, adding a wood-fired oven, and creating a beautiful garden out back reminiscent, in the summer months, of Tuscany.
The backyard garden remains a great place to while away a few hours in the summer.
I was none too kind. The pizzas, which were the heart of the establishment, could be wildly inconsistent — charred on some occasions, doughy and undercooked on others. The sprawling, quasi-Italian menu annoyed me, too. While it made good on its promise of luscious homemade mozzarella, the liver puree on the crostini was pallid and under-seasoned, the fritto misto chronically under-fried, the egg on the asparagus cooked hard, thus depriving us of the runny egg’s golden moisture.
Well, in the course of two years, one chef left and another arrived, and the pizzas were expunged from the menu. Many of the original signature dishes remained. I returned to Anella after hearing and reading several rave reviews. I’m happy to report that the restaurant is now on an even keel. No review should be set in stone, and Anella is a perfect example of a restaurant that starts out on extremely unsteady legs, but later learns to walk, and then run.
The menu is now admirably brief, with five apps, two pastas, five entrées, and a short charcuterie list, supplemented by a daily special or two. On the warm evening that an artist friend and I ate there, the special appetizer was a lovely oblong plate of (sustainable) mackerel crudo, drizzled with a mild pesto and decorated with basil leaves and blossoms. It was insanely beautiful, and great-tasting.
The flawlessly arranged asparagus appetizer
Fried calamari replaced an earlier fritto misto on the menu.
Along with the freshly baked bread that arrived in a flower pot, gratis, we enjoyed a few rounds of venison salami cured in beer, and a so-called asparagus terrine. This was a reworking of the asparagus-spears app with a runny egg that I’d complained about in the earlier review, here transformed into something that might have been made of Legos. Not only was the plate tasty and generous, it was also loads of fun to systematically take apart.
The fritto misto was gone, but in its place a perfectly fried plate of calamari furnished with anchovy mayo and a wedge of lemon. For $13, the quantity was spectacular — easily enough for two to share. And so we grazed among the sections, washing everything down in the shady backyard with a Provençal rosé.
By the time we got to the main courses, we were so blissed out on apps, we only had room for one entrée. We rejected the skate as unsustainable, and the mussels as too appetizer-like. From a choice of three — chicken, pork chop, and strip steak — we picked the steak ($25), which came in four thick, succulent slices, decorated with a few potato chips that had never seen the inside of a bag, and sided with a wad of bitter broccoli rabe. Though the plate was satisfying, in quantity and quality it couldn’t match the starters we’d already enjoyed.
Still, Anella is a place we’ll return to when we want a fine meal in that neck of the woods, in a secluded garden setting. Really, it felt like we were in Italy — without the pizzas.
222 Franklin Street
Nothing indecent about the New York strip