It’s not especially easy to find the entrance to Fitzcarraldo as you head down Morgan Avenue, especially if it’s dark. You might be able to see the illuminated dining room, set a half story above this quiet street, as you pass by, but you may miss the chalkboard sign that points you down a narrow crevice of the 3rd Ward building. Spot it, though, and you’ll follow that inlet right to the restaurant’s front door.
Fitzcarraldo comes from Henry Rich and Julian Brizzi, who are also behind Rucola, a firmly established neighborhood joint in Boerum Hill that slowly amassed a stable of regulars that fill the tables at brunch and dinner. The guys’ second project seems designed to give Bushwick a similarly compelling proposition, a joint you can pop into for coffee and pastries during the day and then return to at night for simple northern Italian fare made from fresh ingredients. Except that this address is inherently a destination space–you kind of need to know it’s there to go searching for that entrance, and foot traffic on this block is light.
So, says a manager, “we’d love to be destination,” a prospect that seems likelier when 3rd Ward classes resume a more robust schedule in the fall: In the dog days of summer, the building and neighborhood seemed sleepy when we stopped by on a week night for a first taste.
Now’s an ideal time to make a point to visit, though: Chef Vinny Campos’ fare is nothing if not market-driven, and his current dinner menu, which rolled out just two nights ago, highlights some of the season’s finest produce in a small handful of Ligurian dishes. With a group of four, it’s not unreasonable to eat through just about all of the menu, but if you’re less gluttonous–or dining in a pair or solo–standouts include the heirloom cantaloupe salad–in which the fruit is enhanced by a dusting of pecorino and black pepper plus leaves of basil and paper-thin slices of radish–and the panzanella, which pits fat, juicy, sweet-tart tomatoes against crusty bread and dollops of creamy burrata. Down in the entree section, opt for the scallops, which meet with clams and lightly cooked cherry tomatoes and are served alongside garlicky clam broth with plenty of toast. And don’t miss the fennel-infused panna cotta for dessert.
The drinks list is short and sweet with a focus on Italian wine and domestic and Italian craft beers. Finish off your dinner with a Stumptown coffee or a bittersweet Italian liqueur (or both)–the room, with its tiled floors and plank-laid ceiling, is cozy, and you’re likely going to linger longer than you meant to, even if you’re seated at the long table in the middle with other parties–which bodes well for a neighborhood restaurant as soon as Bushwick learns it’s here.
Hit the next page for a few photos.