It’s no secret that New Yorkers would kill for outdoor space in the summer. But cooped-up city dwellers have found another way to deal with a winter’s worth of claustrophobia: outdoor dining. Too bad the quest for an outdoor table can become as competitive as the hunt for an apartment with a backyard.
Fortunately there are still some lovely garden dining spots flying under the radar, one of the most impressive of which is Saraghina out in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. Massimiliano Nanni of Manhattan’s Piadina opened this pizza place last June when he couldn’t find enough decent restaurants in his own neighborhood. (He lives around the corner.)
Designed by Nanni’s wife Paola Citterio, the space has a rustic Italian countryside feel with a jolt of New York City kitsch thrown in. Past a winding corridor lined with antique store finds, cane chairs and plain wooden tables topped with Brooklyn-style pillar jar candles fill the whitewashed dining room. There’s also an espresso bar in back for the neighborhood coffee crowd. But it’s the greenery-filled, candlelit garden that will have you hooked. Though this tucked away space is classic New York, decorated with quirky antique signs for “Ziegler’s Resort” (a la Taking Woodstock), it feels worlds apart from the hustle and bustle.
The service at Saraghina is relatively fast for the outer boroughs, so your drinks and food will land on the table pretty quickly, but you’ll also be allowed to linger. Here we stumbled on the solution for red wine served warm, a common problem in cold-storage-challenged NYC: Ask for a bucket of ice, even with a bottle of red. It’ll be 58 degrees in no time.
The NYT review is correct in praising the rotating seasonal appetizers as some of the best things on the menu. That night we tried the grilled octopus, tender and tossed with celery, onions and tomatoes for a very fresh early summer salad. The citrusy dressing had a note of lime, surprising for an Italian place. And there’s good news for lovers of Saraghina’s apps: owner Massimiliano Nanni told us he is opening another restaurant in Bed Stuy focused on Mediterranean fare.
Spicy, earthy capocollo pizza ($15) is definitely a highlight of the pizza selections. The heat of sliced coppa transfers to the rest of the pie, which is also decked out with fresh mozzarella and basil on top of a San Marzano tomato sauce.
A prosciutto and funghi pizza ($15) with Parma ham and mushrooms tastes mild by comparison, but the house tomato sauce, generous melted balls of fresh mozzarella and crispy/doughy, Neopolitan-style crust from Saraghina’s massive, handmade wood-burning oven can hold their own against many of the better pizza places in the city.
With its mellow vibe and fresh seasonal Italian fare and pizza, Saraghina is a real boon to Bed Stuy. And dinner in Saraghina’s beautiful hidden garden will cost you a lot less than finding a garden of your own in NYC.
435 Halsey Street at Lewis Avenue