Sunday, January 18, 2009

Noodle Pudding

Does pasta come to mind? Perhaps, dessert? Maybe just confusion. If you are a fan (as I surely am) of the NY Times' Mark Bittman, aka The Minimalist, you may have just stumbled upon last week's recipe for Noodle Pudding - his attempt to turn leftovers into dessert. While very intriguing and somewhat appetizing, I found it even more baffling that this silly combination of words keeps sneaking into my life. I spent last Saturday night dining at Brooklyn's very own Noodle Pudding - an authentic and low key Italian restaurant located in the heart of Brooklyn Heights. It is hard not to laugh at the name - which, for me, was part of what got me excited to head there. Say it three times and I dare you to keep a straight face. How can you not already love a place whose name automatically brings a smile to your face? But, Noodle Pudding or not, the food really will keep you grinning throughout the night. This is some of the best prepared, reliable Italian food I have come across in NYC. What you see on the menu is what you get - guaranteeing your old favorites from Italy will be a surefire hit.

With such an affordable menu - both for food and drink, this is a great spot for a group. And, they actually take reservations for parties of six or more. In addition to the regular menu, there is a large selection of nightly specials. At a table for six we were able to try a great variety of starters - all of which did not disappoint. These included stuffed mushrooms, asparagus wrapped in a soft Italian cheese, grilled octopus with new potatoes and parsley, prosciutto wrapped around grilled pink endives topped with Parmesan, and sauteed shrimp with white beans and garlic. While basic, every dish was full of flavor and delivered all that was promised. My favorites were the endives and asparagus. Although pink endives are nearly identical in taste to the regular ones, I loved trying them. And grilling these bitter vegetables while adding both ham and cheese to the dish is one of the best preparations I have had. I really do just love anything with Italian cheese - the true reason that the asparagus dish came to life.

We all ordered our own main, but of course ended up passing each dish around the table. This is definitely the kind of place where a simple spaghetti and meatballs could be the winner. We all stuck to the reliable favorites and spent the meal trying to convince each other we had each chosen the best dish. There was tagliatelle bolognese, lasagna bolognese, gnocchi with butter and sage, short ribs with polenta, penne with eggplant and mozzarella, and (a little less traditional, a special of the evening) cavatappi with green olives and lamb ragu spread across the table. It is hard to say which we liked best, but easier to say that we really loved them all. The short ribs perfectly fell off the bone into a bed of soft polenta and winter vegetables - making me very curious about the rest of the meat dishes on the menu. And, I do know I will definitely always order the tagliatelle bolognese (a basic meat sauce) on future visits.

At the end of the meal, we had sampled and consumed more than a fair share of food - leaving no room for dessert. I am even ashamed to admit that we were not all able to finish every dish. The portions are extremely generous - especially when noting the affordable prices. I only wish I had read Bittman’s article before going. Had I known his interpretation of Noodle Pudding, I would have asked for our leftovers to go - an easy way to eventually indulge in a little dessert. While I am pretty sure that is not the Noodle Pudding the Minimalist had in mind, I do think he would appreciate the simplicity and authenticity of this Brooklyn establishment. Noodle Pudding (new definition): simple, tasty, and affordable no matter which way you try it.

Noodle Pudding
38 Henry St
Brooklyn, NY 11201-1338
Phone: (718) 625-3737
FOOD RATING (out of 5):


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