Locanda Vini E Olii's Fine Italian | Clinton Hill, New York

Italian food, long before it was everywhere

Long before Italian food began strangling New York's food scene like a spaghetti-laced corset, there was Locanda Vini e Olii.

This beguiling restaurant opened in early 2001 on an unprepossessing corner of Clinton Hill in Brooklyn. A decade later, Locanda Vini e Olii has new owners, but its prescient vision endures.

So much of Locanda's approach is by now so very familiar: an Italian wine list that emphasizes underappreciated producers and grapes coupled with a simple menu loaded with ingredients such as chicken livers and Tuscan kale. Under the direction of owners Michael Schall, Rocco Spagnardi and Michele Baldacci, this is delicious business as usual rather than a pandering to pervasive trends.

As befits the restaurant's name, olive oil courses through Baldacci's menu. Chicken livers (pictured; $12) are seared in it, then perfumed with sage and vin santo and accompanied by a knoll of risotto enriched with Taleggio cheese. It also anchors the pastas, including a bright pile of tarragon maltagliati with baby artichokes ($17), colors the sublime roasted potatoes ($6) and slicks the arugula salad that flanks the tagliata ($27), one of the finest steaks in recent memory.

We could eat at Locanda Vini e Olii every week. The restaurant is proof that there is deep beauty in steadfastness.

129 Gates Ave. (at Cambridge Pl.), Brooklyn; 718-622-9202 or locandavinieolii.com