111 N 12th st., Williamsburg
It’s not enough for boutique hotels to boast rooftop pools and 24-hour fitness facilities nowadays. In order to woo both tourists and locals alike, these self-contained towers need to commission world-class chefs as well, to oversee everything from room service to cabana snacks to destination-worthy restaurants.
But while the structures themselves may appear flashed in from the future (witness Williamsburg’s The William Vale, a conical expanse of metal and glass, balanced on a pair of pylons) the eateries within tend to skew old school. Instead of stark, modernist, tweezer-forged cuisine, you’ll generally come across all-American, classic French or rustic Italian cookery—affording travelers a reassuring taste of home in the big, trend-driven city, and residents, we imagine, an escape from the aggressively chic industrial sprawl that’s engulfed our own backyards.
So who better than Andrew Carmellini and his NoHo Hospitality Group (who’ve honed their international everyman brand with everything from a Parisian-style brasserie to an Italian taverna to an American heritage pub) to oversee The William Vale’s food programming — devoted to uncomplicated pleasures such as teeny duck carnitas tacos (found in the 22-story cocktail bar, Westlight), and waffle fries engulfed with cheese at the al fresco Mr. Dips. And then there’s the flagship, Leuca— which is sumptuous enough for jet-setters able to spend upwards of $500 a night for a room, yet still manages to beckon diners with the promise of a snuggly wood-fired oven, expressly visible from the street.
With co-newcomers like Sunday in Brooklyn and Aska offering up black cod pastrami and bladderwrack seaweed mere blocks away, a menu fashioned around pizza and pasta, steak and roast chicken, sundaes and donuts seems almost audacious. Sure, Carmellini indulges in occasional capers of creativity—we especially admired the slump of buttery, fire-singed cabbage endowed with funky “Caesar flavors,” and the goat butter-sauced fazzoletti pockets, pressed with grassy goat meat as well as cheese. But for the most part, the restaurant self-identifies with “OG” pepperoni pies (take your server’s suggestion and order a side dish of honeyed ricotta for your scorched crusts), along with that aforementioned chicken for two. Because why reinvent the wheel when you can execute an ideal bird, lodged between a peck of pickled peppers and an estuary of jus?
Leuca’s not exactly a game changer or mold breaker, nor do its individual dishes linger with you long after you leave. But like thousand thread count bedsheets and afternoon Aperol spritzes by the pool, they’re designed to make you—if only for that moment, at least—feel cosseted, carefree, and incontrovertibly good.
Photos by Chris Trigaux