After my wife, Sara, and her mother, Nancy, filled the car at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden plant sale, we met for dinner at Locanda Vini e Olii, a small Italian restaurant not far away.
Locanda opened in 2001, in a space previously occupied for more than a century by a pharmacy, and the owners have maintained as much of the decor as possible—tile floor, tin ceiling, apothecary cabinets built into the walls. There’s a small bar up front, an open kitchen in the back and a warm, comfortable feeling throughout.
The chef, Michele Baldacci, comes from Florence, Italy, and his menu marries Tuscan dishes with a very Brooklyn farm-to-table philosophy. So, for example, a classic “tagliata with arugula” ($26.75) features slices of beef not from Tuscany’s Chianina cattle, but from free-range, grass-fed, organic Piedmontese cattle raised in Montana. We started the meal with a plate of fava beans and English peas, briefly blanched, mixed with mint and arugula, and tossed with olive oil and sea salt. It was a clarion call of spring.
Sommelier Rocco Spagnardi has assembled (or “curated,” as Locanda’s website has it) a short, savvy, eclectic wine list. Cocchi, a bittersweet Vermouth from Turin, based on a formula from 1891, makes a fine aperitif, on the rocks with a twist. To go with the tagliata (and a delicious, meaty, Long Island duck breast), we drank a 2006 Bric Balin, a single-vineyard Barbaresco from Moccagatta, priced at a very fair $74. It was elegant yet energetic, with a lovely balance of red fruit and minerality; I rated it 93 points, non-blind.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Moccagatta Barbaresco Bric Balin 2006 (92, $55 retail).