As a food writer constantly attempting to wade through each month’s new onslaught of openings, it’s hard not to get waylaid by high-concept restaurants serving attention-grabbing dishes; at this point, who hasn’t heard of the Gorbals’ bacon-wrapped matzoh balls or chicken schnitzel, with its grasping, pomme puree-swaddled claw? And it can be equally difficult for young establishments to woo set-in-their-ways locals, whose dining trajectories are so often informed by certain self-imposed boundaries, contained to the same subway-adjacent, foot-trafficked strips.
So when it comes to courting both highly distractible media types and habituated neighborhood folk alike, Le Fanfare has its work cut out, featuring as it does both a classic Italian menu that resists novelty or needless modernization, and an off-the-beaten-path location (by Brooklyn standards, at least), on the dark, quiet end of Greenpoint’s Manhattan Avenue.
That being said, everyone should be so lucky to have such a restaurant in their hood, because Le Fanfare fairly vibrates with feel-good vibes promoted by great wine, better pasta, achingly pretty Italian men, and the percussive, transportive, tinkling thrum of live gypsy jazz. It’s also one of the loveliest spaces we’ve seen of late—which, amazingly for Greenpoint, owes nothing to the brothers Haslegrave—and is equipped with bouquet-strewn communal tables stretching the length of the room; a row of intimate, T-shaped two-tops, constructed from sculpted slabs of marble; and a trio of cloistered, high-backed wooden booths, illuminated by sleek chandeliers of bare, dangling lightbulbs, suspended in swirling bronze hoops.
Since there’s little to surprise on the menu (market fish crudo, spaghetti neri, roasted chicken with sage jus), scrupulous sourcing and impeachable execution is absolutely imperative, and Le Fanfare more than delivers on both fronts. Supple Lioni Latticini burrata oozes cream over virtuous-in-comparison, golden coins of butternut squash and angular rubies of beet; anchovy-dressed kale salad sports bitter, lacy frills of puntarelle and croutons of homemade focaccia; and hunks of grilled, marsala-doused Berkshire pork loin are positioned atop smears of nubby, stone ground polenta, from Satur Farms in Cutchogue, NY. And the lineup of hand-cranked pastas are practically transcendent: Pair an apple-crisp glass of Sardinian Vermentino with arugula-stained trampolines of gnocchi, slicked with green onion butter and dotted with tender rock shrimp scampi, or a plummy Montepulciano d’Abruzzo with generous ribbons of pappardelle, mounded with earthy duck ragu and diamonds of impossibly sweet carrot.
So while Le Fanfare might seem a tad too sedate for story-seeking critics, and a bit too far out (literally) for commercially compact Greenpoint, we’d happily walk all the way to the East River, for an evening of silky ravioli delivered by swoon-worthy servers, swinging their hips to the pulsing refrains of hot club jazz.
1103 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint