When we visited our good friends and their kids in Park Slope, Brooklyn, we decided to stay in the neighborhood for dinner. I have always wanted to try Al di Là Trattoria in Park Slope since I saw Chef Anna Klinger featured on Mark Bittman's book and TV show, as well as the glowing 2-star review from The New York Times. Al di Là, which means "beyond", doesn't take reservations except for a few tables for parties of 6 or more, hence our two families made one for the first seating at the early bird hour of 5:45pm on a Saturday.
I arrived at the restaurant first by myself five minutes before our reservation. When I walked pass the front door, I found the restaurant to be almost fully occupied already, except for a table for two and our reserved table for 8. The host greeted me and asked if my party is all present. I said no and the host refused to seat me at the table and even suggested that I wait outside in the heat. Frankly, I didn't see why I couldn't be seated at the reserved and empty table. I understand the policy of not seating incomplete parties later in the evening as there is no reservation at the restaurant and often a long wait for the tables. However, it didn't make sense when my reservation was the first seating of the night. It is puzzling why the restaurant cannot be more hospitable to someone who came a long way and made the reservation three weeks in advance.
The rest of my party arrived shortly after the reserved time and the host finally agreed to seat us. We were a party of four adults and four kids. My friends who live in Park Slope told me that it is a super child-friendly neighborhood and the restaurants all welcome kids. Given that two of the kids in our party are still small and typically sit and eat better in high chairs, we asked the waiter for a couple of them. To my surprise, the restaurant only has one high chair and it was already being used by another kid. Maybe the restaurant is not as child-friendly as my friends purported it to be.
For my kids I ordered a Tagliatelle al Ragù which was so-so. For myself, I started with the Trippa alla Toscana that was slimy but too spicy. This was followed by the Tortelli di Piselli, homemade ravioli filled with spring peas, butter, mint, and Pecorino. The pasta was mushy and the dish was a bit under seasoned and tasted a bit bland. I didn't finish either of my two dishes and we all skipped dessert and went home.
Al di Là was a disappointment. It certainly did not go beyond the expectations, rather quite the opposite. Maybe the restaurant had an off-night or perhaps the standards have slipped after so many years; the restaurant opened in 1988. Given that Al di Là does not take reservations for small parties and the food is only so-so, the restaurant only makes sense for people who live in the neighborhood. In comparison, a few days before our meal at Al di Là, we ate at Osteria Morini in SoHo. The food there was simply better, for instance, the Tagliatelle al Ragù was more satisfying both in terms of flavor and texture and it was only $1.50 more. The restaurant in SoHo not only takes reservations but even have more high chairs. In short, I cannot see a reason why I will ever go back to Al di Là.