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You’ll need a reservation, but buzz restaurant Lilia, is not to be missed. Stand-out dishes include the Grilled Clams appetizer, Sheeps Milk Cheese Filled Agnolotti, Veal Steak with Long Peppers and Rigatoni Diavola but you really can’t go wrong. The dining room is elegant and large and the chef, Missy Robbins, is famous for being the Obama’s favorite restaurateur. When the food is this exquisite, it would be a shame to only enjoy Lilia on special occasions.
Missy Robbins’ “mind-blowing” housemade pastas and wood-fired entrees are declared “exactly what Italian food should be” at this “outstanding” arrival to the Williamsburg dining scene; the “spare-but-warm” space – complete with “lovely open kitchen”, “sweeping bar” and plenty of “buzz” – is overseen by an “excellent” staff, so the only real problem is “getting a reservation.”
…Pasta made by Ms. Robbins is a direct route to happiness that has been shut off to New Yorkers since she left the two A Voce restaurants in 2013. Slip a fork into the pappardelle with veal Bolognese. Shiny with just enough herb-flecked sauce that one noodle peels away from the rest as you lift, they are rolled so thin that they’re almost weightless. Taste them, and you notice their delicacy along with the naked simplicity of the chopped veal gently cooked into tenderness with dark and meaty dried porcini. There is no milk in this Bolognese and no tomatoes apart from some juice, but nothing is missing.
…New York culinary world might be running out of ideas. But then, at Lilia, Missy Robbins shows up and transforms the dish into a life-changing bite.With the fritters in one hand and your beer in the other, all of a sudden the 90-minute wait for a table (the quote on a Thursday) doesn’t seem so bad. A fire-breathing wood grill sears lamb steaks a stone’s throw away from the bar. Chefs toss rich pappardelle bolognese in the open kitchen. And in back, a soft serve machine waits to be called on as a first-aid tool to counter the restaurant’s markedly spicy rigatoni diavola.
Robbins’s cooking throughout is exceedingly smart, assured and refreshingly consistent. The chef holds court at a counter that separates the bustling open kitchen from the sprawling, skylit dining room, performing quality control on the tenderness of a lamb leg as it’s pulled from a roaring wood-fired grill and the spice level of the salsa verde that coats a dish of black bass and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes ($27). (It’s just right, FYI.) That attention to detail renders even the most straightforward preparations—like crimped mafaldine barely dressed in Parmigiano-Reggiano and pink peppercorn ($18)—stunning in their simplicity. Ingredients are sparsely listed on the menu, but not out of some coy Brooklyn minimalism—what you see is what you get at Lilia. And trust us, you’ll be happy with what you get.