Brooklyn is home to some of the best Italian restaurants in the city, and that rings true whether you’re talking about old trattorias or excellent modern takes on different regions of Italy. Somewhere in the middle is Noodle Pudding (38 Henry Street, Brooklyn; 718-625-3737), a sign-less Brooklyn Heights eatery that’s been feeding the neighborhood for almost two decades.
Antonio Migliaccio opened this place in the Nineties, drawing inspiration from his upbringing in Naples. Today, the restaurant runs at its own unique cadence, which is more akin to the slightly disorganized — but immensely friendly — pace you’d find at a restaurant in Italy than the prescript, measured march of a dinner in much of this city.
Servers appear to know just about everyone; this is a different crowd than the trendy restaurant seekers who swarm New York’s new eateries and then leave them for dead. Many of these diners have been coming to Noodle Pudding for years, and they pause to chat up the bartender before heading to their tables. If they’re a twosome, they could be led to a long table for six, next to another couple, which means diners occasionally get to know each other, too. And the kitchen takes part in the service, as well — when we ordered pastas before an entree sided with pasta, an emissary from the back came out to ask whether we’d prefer vegetables with our main (nah).
If you’re after seasonal ingredients and more modern presentations, you should turn your eyes to the specials list, which is nearly as long as the menu and includes pastas, appetizers, and entrees made with seasonal ingredients. In the winter, that means razor clams, bucatini Amatriciana, and the rabbit dish that you normally have to order ahead of time. That rabbit, in particular, is worth considering; tender and succulent, it comes with a side of pillowy gnocchi.
But you’re likely coming to Noodle Pudding for its mainstays, for those are the dishes that bring comfort. In that case, you should order a pasta or two (the kitchen will happily make half-portions). Try the tagliatelle bolognese or the rigatoni alla Siciliana, made with roasted eggplant, tomatoes, and fresh ricotta. You might start with a green salad or calamari; you might finish with tiramisu. You’ll definitely want a bottle or two of inexpensive red wine.
Noodle Pudding isn’t the trendiest restaurant on Henry Street these days, but it’s worth checking out if you want a comfortable place to while away an evening, especially on a cold winter night.
Just be forewarned — it’s cash only, and the closest ATM is more than a block away.