I knew I had found a great Italian restaurant when I started planning my second visit midway through my first. That’s what happened when I first ate at Spirito, a new Italian restaurant in Park Slope.
I had rushed over as soon as I heard that Giovanni Caveggia, formerly a co-owner of Gradisca, one of my favorite Italian restaurants in Manhattan, was now a part-owner of Spirito. With its fresh, authentic Italian food, a friendly and attentive staff, and easygoing atmosphere, Spirito is my new neighborhood favorite. I may have to take the bus to get there, but I’ll pretty much do anything for a great plate of pasta.
Spirito is located on quiet strip of 9th street between 4th and 5th Avenues, unfortunately next door to a McDonald’s. But all thoughts of McNuggets and fries disappeared as soon as I entered the restaurant, with its exposed-brick walls, dark-wood bar, and candle-lit space. A red Vespa rests above the doorway, proudly enhancing the Italian spirit of the room.
But during the spring and summer, Spirito’s relaxing outdoor rooftop is the place to be. On our first visit, we started with a carpaccio of mango with prosciutto di parma ($10), a refreshing and sparkling combination of ingredients, and a crunchy, light fritto misto of calamari and artichokes ($9). During our second visit a week later we tried the grilled tomino cheese with string beans and truffle oil ($11) and the tuna tartar with avocado ($11). The string beans were perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the strong, nutty cheese, so the tartar was our favorite that night, its hint of spiciness cushioned by the smooth mix of soft, fresh fish and creamy avocado (pictured above).
On both of our visits, the pastas were excellent, cooked perfectly and obviously made with the freshest vegetables and meats available. Jim ordered the smoky bucatini all’amatriciana ($13) both nights we ate there; once he discovers a dish he likes, he sticks with it. On my first visit I went with the cavatelli with eggplant ($12). The hearty cavatelli were sturdy complements to the delicately cooked eggplant and tomatoes. I was surprised by the lightness of the orrechiette with lamb ragu ($13.50) on my second visit, as I was anticipating ground meat in the sauce. Spirito’s version unexpectedly employs thinly-cut, soft chunks of lamb, its flavor enhanced by the sweetness of tomato (pictured below).
When we ordered the warm chocolate cake ($7.50) for dessert, we were warned that it could take about 15 minutes, as they needed to make it from scratch. The time needed for this dessert intrigued me, and besides, I was more than willing to sit on the deck a little longer.
Our decadent chocolate cake arrived in a small, ceramic flower pot, with powdered sugar on top. This deep-dish dessert, with its rich, molten center, was an amusing and creative end to our meals.
And as an added treat, I discovered a family connection at Spirito, as I sat at the bar during our first visit and chatted with Caveggia. After a few moments of conversation about our Italian backgrounds, he exclaimed:
“Are you kidding me? Your mother is from San Severo? So is my grandmother. San Severo is one of the two roughest towns in Italy. I can’t believe your mother is from there.”
I swelled with pride, hoping that the reputation of my mother’s hometown made me appear tough, as well as Italian. I’m not really sure it worked.
So, as I said good night to Caveggia after our second meal at Spirito, we talked about how my mother needed to come next time, so that they could meet and talk about his grandmother’s and her hometown. Any excuse to go back is more than fine with me.
287 9th Street (between 4th and 5th Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn) 718-832-0085