In our increasingly celeb-centric food culture, restaurants tend to live and die on the buzz created by the chef at their helm. Such was the case with Boerum Hill’s Krescendo, which was feverishly ushered into public consciousness on a wave of publicity surrounding its unexpected frontwoman, Elizabeth Falkner. Best known as a San Francisco-based pastry chef, Falkner’s star rose in earnest after numerous appearances on shows like The Next Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters, her escalating interest in savory fare culminating in a first prize win at the World Pizza Championships in Naples in 2012. So it was a surprise when she took a step back from the limelight, pulled up stakes in the West Coast and moved to Brooklyn, bringing her newly minted cred as a word-class pizzaiolo to bear at an inconspicuous eatery on Atlantic Avenue.
Of course, such an outsized level of expectation inevitably leads to crashing disappointment. Falkner’s meatballs were dry. Her pastas were wan. Her lauded, Neapolitan-styled pies were inconsistent at best. And what exactly was this small screen darling doing slinging wood-fired pizza in Brooklyn anyway? Falkner lasted all of seven months, and when she fizzled out, so did the word on Krescendo. So what does a restaurant do to survive in this town without a media-friendly star lighting the way?
You become a nice neighborhood restaurant, is what. Which, if you ask owner Nancy Puglisi, is pretty much all she aimed to be in the first place. No slouch in the pizza-making department herself (she actually helped create the World Pizza Cup in Naples, and taught alongside champion Tony Gemignani at San Fran’s International School of Pizza) Puglisi remains adamant about keeping her beloved pies front and center. And while a few of Falkner’s more notable renditions remain on the menu (including the award-winning Finnochio Flower Power, with braised fennel, fennel sausage, and fennel fronds) Puglisi’s own creations are just as appealing, like the Purple Quail with purple potatoes, Calabrese chili peppers, quail eggs, lavender flowers, and speck.
Besides that, there’s a perfectly serviceable roster of rustic starters on offer (black garlic knots, arancini, calamari fritti, buratta with olive tapenade), seasonal salads (fennel and orange, kale and ricotta salata, arugula with lemon and shaved grana padano), along with — a must in Brooklyn — at least four pages worth of inventive cocktails. We had plenty of fun reconstructing the “Oaxacan Summer” served in three parts… a shot glass of crispy, rendered pancetta, a tumbler of fresh watermelon-basil syrup, and a flute of pancetta-infused mezcal, with a chipotle fleur de sel rim. Of course, it’s dessert where Falkner’s absence is more deeply felt; although who really needs an intricately plated pastry after feasting on garlic knots and pizza? A trio of frosty granitas more than fits the bill — we especially enjoyed the not-too-sweet mixed berry, topped with dehydrated strawberry-flecked whipped cream.
So while there’s simply nothing more to say about the chef heading up the kitchen at Krescendo, that doesn’t mean there’s no merit to the somewhat simple food coming out of it. Will the Manhattan media continue to flock here for kale salad, blistered Margarita pies and pesto-filled rice balls? Probably not. But for this unassuming restaurant, and certainly for the neighborhood too, that’s really not such a bad thing.
364 Atlantic Ave., (718) 330-0888