Please excuse the dramatic silence around here. I am still alive and kicking, but we've been busy eating for the last week. Maman and Papa have just left after a week's trip which flew by in a blur of pasta, lack of sleep, coffee, and sunshine. This week's return to normality where we eat in every night and take in packed lunches of leftovers to work for lunch is set to be a bit of a reality check.
Our first night on their trip was spent carb loading at home before B's record-breaking half marathon at 7am on Sunday morning. When Sunday evening rolled around, it was time to celebrate their arrival and B's ability to run as fast as airplanes can fly, with dinner at Lilia.
When Lilia opened with a flurry of mouth-watering Instagram photos of pasta in January, it has sat tip top of my list of 'I need to eat there as soon as we have some money in our bank account'. Weeks before M and P arrived on American soil, a table at Lilia had been booked, and the countdown had begun. The Instagram photos were no word of a lie: Lilia is our new favorite NYC restaurant. Although Rucola, we do love you too, and you are also our favorite: please don't make me pick one, I'm not very good at decisions.
Early on Sunday evening we were seated at our table in this bright, airy space with incredibly high ceilings, warehouse style windows, whitewashed brickwork walls, and concrete floors. Simple, but elegant, with more than a touch of a West Coast vibe about it. Aperol Spritz and Negroni were ordered, along with a salty, crisp bowlful of cacio e pepe fritelle and a burratino (not burrito, as spellcheck would like it to be) toast with mozzarella, lemon, and bottarga. A pretty fabulous way to start the evening. Can these fritelle please be a feature of every Sunday supper from now on?
Vegetables followed next: Bagna cauda with winter vegetables and an individual dipping sauce being warmed by a flickering candle was simple but perfect.
Cauliflower with spicy soppressata, Sicilian pesto, and marjoram was crunchy and, according to B (we didn't get to try this one!) 'good'. An economist's excellent use of adjectives.
The last of the winter's roasted squash, Parmigiano, pine nuts, allepo, and brown butter was spicy and sweet and nutty and exactly how vegetables should be on a blustery, snowy Sunday evening.
Fennel, marinated capers, and blood orange was so much more inventive and addictive than it sounds. The fennel had been lightly charred over their open, wood-burning grill, and had all the charcoal-y, smokey flavors of your favorite barbecue dish, encapsulated into fresh, crunch slices of fennel.
We had already fallen in love with Lilia by this point, and the stars of the evening hadn't even arrived.
We sampled almost every single pasta dish on the menu. There was no way we were allowed to order two of the same: there were too many fabulous flavours and pasta shapes which needed to be tried.
I, of course, had to go for the Instagram perfect Mafaldini with pink peppercorns and Parmigiano. These curly, frizzy strands of pasta had the most dreamy bite to them, and were dressed so simply. This twist on the classic cacio e pepe landed itself a spot on my desert island dish list.
The prettiest dish was undoubtedly the ricotta gnocchi, with vibrant broccoli pesto, basil, and pistachios. A party of all the most beautiful green early spring ingredients adorned the soft little dumplings.
Agnolotti filled with sheeps' milk cheese, saffron, dried tomato, and honey was just the right side of being overwhelmed by saffron. One more strand and it would have been too much, but as it was it sat perfectly in the middle of savory, sweet, and rich.
The silkiest papardelle was served with a veal bolognese, porcini, and nutmeg. Earthy, rich bolognese, lightly coated the freshly made strips of pasta.
We turned down dessert: If we'd had any room left we would have ordered more pasta, not dessert. Bellies full, hearts happy, and bodies utterly exhausted, we reluctantly left this heavenly restaurant and skipped out into a flurry of snowflakes falling on Williamsburg.
Lilia, 567 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222