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« Recipe: Mexican Potato & Green Chile Chowder | Main | Recipe: Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Lemon »
Tuesday
Apr242012

Dinner at Speedy Romeo

  • Restaurant  Speedy Romeo
  • Cuisine  Italian, pizza
  • Location  376 Classon Avenue (btwn Greene Avenue & Clinton Place), Brooklyn
  • Phone  718-230-0061
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  rustic, casual, warm
  • Attire  casual
  • Ideal for  small-sized groups, 1x1, foodies, dine at the bar
  • Price  moderate
  • Speedy Romeo on Urbanspoon

Hollywood had been trying to plan a group dinner at Speedy Romeo since it first opened its doors in January.  "My friend, Justin, just opened his own restaurant in Brooklyn...he used to be a chef for Jean Georges and Perry Street."  Go ahead.  Ask me, again, why I call Christine, "Hollywood."  Sold.  All I needed to hear was the name, "Jean Georges," and I was in. 

Although SR (Speedy Romeo) does not take reservations, six of us decided to try our luck for a Saturday seating at 7:30pm.  Pretty ambitious, no?  Two subway lines and a brief walk later, I arrived at SR with minutes to spare. 

SR is situated in an old auto parts store that, similar to Apizz in Manhattan, is bordered by housing projects and a handful of 'mom and pop' bodegas.  Sketchy?  Seedy?  Well, that may be your prerogative but, to me, this urban setting is one of the many New York landscapes that I fell in love with.  The New York that looked back at me when I watched the movie, Annie, for the very first time.  The red brick buildings.  The fire escapes.  The stoops occupied by groups of teenage friends gossiping and laughing about what happened in school earlier that day.  To me, SR's Brooklyn perfectly represents the marriage of 'old school' and gentrified 'new school.'

Photo: Paul Leonard for Bed-Stuy PatchWhile we waited for other 4, Vivian and I grabbed a glass of wine at SR's bar (currently only serving beer and wine). 

One by one, the rest of our party trickled in and we were promptly seated.  

At sundown, the rustic space was dimly illuminated by twinkling votive candles, evoking a subtle air of romance.Chef/owner Justin, Hollywood's friend, approached our table and asked how we'd like to order.  "Do you guys want to do a-la-carte, or have the kitchen choose for you?"  Hollywood suggested the latter, and we all complied.

Plates of artfully-presented food and bottles of wine slowly began to fill our once-sparse table top.  Below, I will take you on a chronological journey of our extravagant, family-style meal:

 

Salad course

Grilled Beet

A halved, grilled beet was paired alongside house-made ricotta cheese and a lightly-dressed watercress salad.  A drizzle of olive oil, hazelnut bits, and a delicate dusting of parmesan cheese finished the dish.

Aren't the bold, contrasting colors of the purple beet and the emerald-green watercress striking?   

Mozzarella Salad

Fresh mozzarella cheese quarters were finished with a chili oil drizzle and paired alongside a thick toast slice that was topped with a pillow of silky, smoked eggplant.

Everything about this salad was on-point, however, I would have preferred the mozzarella to be a bit creamier and less dense. 

Speedy Romeo Caesar

God bless the sad picture of this salad!  You can rest assured that it tasted 1000% better than it looks.

Romaine lettuce.  Anchovies.  Lemon.  Parmesan cheese shavings.  Just the right amount of creamy dressing.  A Caesar salad does not get any more traditional - or delicious - than this!  

Soft-shell crab

I'm going to be honest with you:  I haven't a clue as to how this crab was prepared (steamed vs. fried vs. broiled vs. grilled, etc.).  It was, however, accompanied by a gently-tossed mix of flat-leaf parsley, toasted crostini, lettuce, and parsley oil.

I've traveled to far-off lands and experienced some bizarre foods but, to me, there is something incredibly barbaric about eating the entirety of a crustacean - from outer shell to flesh.  Blah, blah, I know that soft-shell crabs are chi-chi and "in season" right now, but that doesn't mean that I have to jump on the bandwagon and pretend to love them.  Especially when the one in question tasted like it was caught last year.  Meh.

Asparagus

Perched atop a light, albeit tangy, vinaigrette was a blanket of lamb bacon, a mound of steamed asparagus spears, and the most perfectly-cooked fried egg.  Freshly-ground pepper and parmesan cheese-shavings crowned the dish.

*While I enjoyed the unique, gamey flavor of the lamb bacon, I can say, with confidence, that it's probably not for everyone.  So, if you're averse to lamb, order this dish without the bacon.   

 

Pizza course:  SR bakes every handmade pie in their custom-built wood-burning oven!

The King Salami

A traditional tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese base, this pie was generously topped with hot and sweet soppresatta (Italian dry salami), finocchiona (a variation on regular Tuscan salami that is flavored with fennel seeds), and red peppers.

The Speedy Romeo

This smoky, crunchy crust was finished with ricotta cheese, tomato, basil, lemon, and chili.  What made this pie particularly unique was that the pizza dough was grilled prior to topping!

The Saint Louie

Of all of the pizzas that we sampled, "The Saint Louie" was my personal favorite.  For this particular pie, SR's delectable crust was topped with tomato sauce, Provel cheese (...which is like the creamiest, richest, most gooey cheese on the planet), Italian sausage, pepperoni, and pickled chilis. 

The Kind Brother

This was another winner, in my book.  A plethora of wild mushrooms, fresh sage, and mozzarella and ricotta cheeses were topped with a fried farm egg.  Once pricked, the egg's golden yolk slowly oozed from the center of the pie outward, creating an incredibly rich, positively unctuous flavor with each bite.

House-made hot peppers

The perfect sweet/savory/spicy condiment to be used atop any of SR's pizza pies!

 

Entree course

Pork Chop

Don't be fooled:  This Jew loves herself some pork.  So, you can imagine my excitement when SR presented this lovely plate, topped with a fennel-marinated pork chop, roasted fennel bulbs, and a bowl of Tuscan white beans.  However, as I cut my first piece, I was disappointed to observe that the 'chop was very undercooked.  And this was visible under extremely dim lighting!  "Don't worry," Bunny said, "you won't get trichinosis."  Um, OK.  But isn't being grossed out by raw meat enough?  Fail.     

2 lb. Bone-in Kansas City Strip

Now this was a winner!  An incredibly juicy, perfectly-marbled and charred, 2 lb. Kansas City strip steak was cooked to a precise "medium" temperature and served alongside small mounds of each of the following:  sea salt, freshly-ground course black pepper, and toasted garlic chips.  A small cup of salsa verde accompanied.  Bam!    

By this point in the meal, it's not like any of us were famished, but this entree course was redemption for the undercooked pork chop.

Whole Branzino

Often referred to as "Mediterranean seabass," this lovely branzino was drizzled with fragrant herb oil and served alongside a halved grilled lemon. 

Healthy and light, this flaky white fish was a welcome interlude between the heavier pork and beef entrees.

 

Dessert course

Affogato

House-made espresso ice cream (chock full of espresso nibs!) was nestled aside a dollop of sea salt-topped sweet-cream semifreddo, tangerine slices, and delicious "boat" cookies (very similar, in taste and texture, to shortbread).

Chocolate Cake

"Stand back!" Chef Justin yelled, over Hollywood's shoulder, as he "branded" the marshmallow topping with a hot, metal iron... 

Surrounded by graham cracker crumbles stood an incredibly dense, intensely rich chocolate cake that was finished with "branded marshmallow" fluff. 

While I didn't care for the marshmallow, the cake, itself, was completely out of this world.  Mind blowing.  Wow. 

Olive Oil Cake

Olive oil cake.  Sounds a bit bizarre, no?  Out of left field, perhaps.  Well, for those of you who who are 'olive oil cake virgins,' I highly suggest giving it a try, either a) the next time you see it listed on a menu, or b) if you happen upon a recipe.  Why?  Because it's unfathomably more moist than your average white cake.  And you cannot deny the subtle, earthy flavor conceived from its star ingredient.  Are you sold now?

SR's version of the cake was paired with homemade whipped cream, tangerine slices, toasted pignoli nuts, and a light drizzle of olive oil.     

Lemon Tart

Not since the last time I had my mom's scratch-made lemon meringue pie have I had such an outstanding rival.  SR shakes up the traditional recipe by using puff pastry, instead of your hum drum Pilsbury-esque pie crust, for the tart's foundation.  The result?  Lemon curd and meringue, as opposed to an overwhelmingly thick and doughy crust, take center stage. 

Love. At. First. Bite.  SR's Lemon Tart is reason enough to warrant a visit.  Or, in my case, a return visit.

 

To conclude:  If you judge a restaurant by its bread basket, then shouldn't you judge a pizza joint by its crust?  While SR doesn't serve bread (unless you ask for it, of course), per se, they do make one hell of a fantastic crust.  And a good crust + delicious topping combinations = winning pizza.  Right?  The best part about SR is that, if you're not in the mood for a pie, the menu offers a slew of foodie-caliber entrees.  And some of the best desserts in the five boroughs. 

While "getting there is half the fun," the truth is that most Manhattanites won't make the long journey for a dinner in Clinton Hill (Brooklyn).  But trust me, fellow neighbors, SR is worth the trek.  It's been quite a while since I've deemed a restaurant, especially outside of Manhattan, "destination worthy."  SR, however, unequivocally deserves that title.  

Oh, and one more thing - just because I'm sure you're curious - "Speedy Romeo" was the name of one of the owner's family's Meadowlands racehorses. 

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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