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Leuca is a Southern Italian restaurant serving house-made pastas and wood-fired pizzas, inside the William Vale hotel. This is the hotel’s signature restaurant headed by Chef Andrew Carmellini (of SoHo Hospitality, Dutch and Locanda Verde). Sadly, the food is only so-so, especially for the inflated price tag. If you decide to eat here, skip the pizza and opt for one of the pastas which are good but will not blow you away. Even better, have a drink at Westlight upstairs for the stunning views, then enjoy an appetizer in Leuca’s lovely and spacious bar.
Of course, there is more to Leuca than gelato, and the menu includes all kinds of things that people love: smoked beets with ricotta salata and hazelnuts, razor clams with salsa verde, and a selection of “southern Italian dips” like ricotta with hot honey. There are pastas, including sea-urchin spaghetti (always a favorite) and a raviolo filled with duck egg. Wood-baked pizza options include a classic margherita and the broccili-rabe-topped Goomah. There’s also hanger steak, a mixed grill of lamb, and even a roasted chicken, for two, if you want to see how dish-sharing goes before you move on to dessert.
Andrew Carmellini, the chef known for the Dutch and Locanda Verde, and his partners in NoHo Hospitality have established several spaces in the new William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn, and this is the main event. It’s Mr. Carmellini’s first trip to the south of Italy; he named the restaurant for a town in the Salento area of Puglia. Chickpea Pugliese with bottarga, black spaghetti with cuttlefish puttanesca, and Sicilian pistachio cake are some of the regional fare. The dining room is wood-paneled. And under the executive chef Anthony Ricco, a wood-burning oven and grill deliver a few pizzas, roasted cabbage with Caesar flavors, smoked beets, and lamb mixed grill with eggplant Calabrese.
Leuca is the restaurant in the bottom of Williamsburg’s William Vale Hotel, and it’s very easy to pretend you’re in Manhattan here. It isn’t incredibly expensive, but you’ll still find dressed-up young people and older folks going for a civilized meal in an area where it’s otherwise hard not being young. Here you can get pizza, pasta, small plates, or some Mediterranean dips referred to as “La Scarpett’s.” And the food is good. It might not change your life, but the atmosphere is lively, and it’s a good place to go if you find yourself in Williamsburg with some people who don’t usually cross bridges.
So, pass on the pizza. But nor is Leuca going to be your go-to for Southern Italian food, which fills the rest of the menu. It’s a perfectly acceptable option if you’re staying at the hotel, and it’s raining outside, and you don’t feel like exploring the rest of New York City for more inspired fare. That scenarios aside, it’s not where you want to be.