I lived in Park Slope for 2 years before I finally tried Al di La. My old apartment was a mere 3 blocks away, and I had heard such great things about it, yet I had always been intimidated by the long lines of people waiting outside for dinner. (Like many restaurants here, they don't take reservations.) My friend Elizabeth said the trick was to get there at 5:30pm and wait for the first seating; otherwise, be prepared to stand outside for a while.
So when I finally tried it, it was for lunch on my 30th birthday last year, a lovely surprise from my friend Barb. The restaurant was calm and relaxing, busy but not overly so. I loved it before we even started eating.
And that has proven to be just as pleasant and leisurely on other occasions. You can just waltz right in and get a seat. Some of the customers seem to just while away their lunches with coffee and a newspaper. And the dining room, with its rustic Italian farmhouse decor, is just so darn charming when drenched in sunlight.
The lunch menu is, of course, shorter than the dinner menu, but that suits me just fine. I've tried the spaghetti alla chitarra, which seems to change regularly, but on that birthday summer day it came with the perfect small amounts of guanciale, peas, Parmesan, with an incredibly flavorful light cream sauce. On another occasion I tried the crispy pork belly sandwich, which comes with a salad so you can at least pretend it's a healthy dish. And then there's the favorite: funghi e polenta, or wild mushrooms with polenta, with a bed of braised greens, Parmesan, and a hidden poached egg whose runny yolk adds even more flavor.
Fantastic, fantastic, fantastic.
Of course, one day I still plan on making it to dinner here.