26 Broadway, Williamsburg
In many ways, Barano is the Lilia of Williamsburg’s south side. The Broadway newcomer is overseen by Albert Di Meglio, formerly of the esteemed Rubirosa (often proclaimed as serving some of the very best pizza in the city) while Union Avenue’s Lilia is helmed by Missy Robbins, who garnered a Michelin star for A Voce. Together their combined cred has attracted a reverse Manhattan bridge-and-tunnel crowd to their respective eateries, joining the nouveau Brooklyn settlers from the surrounding glassed-in high rises.
Both spots focus on southern Italian cuisine; in fact, Barano, located on the island of Ischia, is the birthplace of Di Meglio’s grandmother. And in a nod to Neapolitan tradition—not to mention current trends—both are in possession of wood burning ovens, rotisseries, and grills used to sizzle lamb (at Barano, luscious hunks of leg are deposited over pine nut and raisin panzanella), chicken (which Di Meglio spit-roasts and pairs with peas and spring onions), and whole fish, anointed with salsa verde and pickled chilis, and accompanied by smoke-imbued stems of bitter broccoli rabe.
Di Meglio even gives Robbins pushback on the pasta front, encroaching on her territory with fat, nettle-padded pouches of tortellini and housemade bucatini aka noodle straws that suck eagerly at an Ischian-style rabbit ragu. But his ace in the hole remains pizza; topped with clams and breadcrumbs, mushrooms and pancetta, or sausage and scamorza, his version features dough formed during a three-day process, using farro and bread flour sourced from Wild Hive farms. Oh, and extra credit is owed for his cheeses, such as stretchy strands of Apulian stracciatella or salted mounds of olive oil-stippled mozzarella, paired with salumi and verdure and painstakingly prepared a minute.
Of course, Missy Robbins is already racking in the honorifics, including a coveted three-star review from the Times. With most things being equal, Barano should expect some similar love soon.
photos by Jane Bruce