Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fiore Coming Down from it's Grand Opening Fury

I passed Fiore for the first time this past winter during our biyearly trek to Bozu, a great Japanese tapas spot right down the street. We grabbed a menu and were dazzled by new restuarant low prices -- our first visit was less than a week later. It's been on the dinner rotation ever since, and while it will remain firmly on that list, I'm a little sad to report that the inevitable product pull-back and price hike has already taken place.

The quaint Italian restaurant, located on Grand Street in Williamsburg, really is quite charming. Exposed brick walls decorate either end of the narrow space, and the bar boasts of shelves and shelves of wine. In the summertime, they open the small backyard patio and open the entire front, making for a cozy yet breezy atmosphere.

The beef carpaccio is my favorite appetizer. It comes atop a small salad topped with large shaved chunks of parmesan cheese. Lemon halves allow you to get just the right of citrusy juice on top of the carpaccio -- to die for.

The pasta is freshly made at Fiore. I'd recommend getting any of their pasta dishes before any of the Secundi options -- they're tastier and better priced to boot. The spaghetti is perfect in its simplicity, piled high atop itself with fresh tomato and basil. The traditional meat ragout lasagne comes fresh out of the oven with hot, juicy bits of meat. My only complaint about this one is that it isn't cheesy enough. The spinich ricotta ravioli may be my favorite, topped with a sweet brown butter sage sauce. The reason I don't get it every time is that you only get about six raviolis, so if you're hungry you'll want to get a side to help fill you up.

The desserts are great, but the only one really worth talking about is the tiramisu. My mom always makes hers with lots of marsala wine, butterscotch pieces and whipped cream instead of mascarpone. I love it, but I love Fiore's almost as much even though it is completely different. Fiore's version is very simple -- just lady fingers and mascarpone cream, no masala wine. But here's the surprise: dark chocolate chunks in the center that elevate it to dessert hall-of-fame status. The fresh berries on the side only help the cause. At $4 (but now $5), how can you beat it?

The brunch menu is composed of both breakfast items and a selection of pasta found on the dinner menu. The best part about brunch is that you never have to wait. But that is probably because nothing is stellar in the breakfast department here. The short rib hash used to be its reason for being, but unfortunately they pulled it back and only offer a fatty "beef hash" instead. They didn't think we'd notice the switch? This morning I had the mozzerella and spinach omelet. It was good (how can you go wrong with mozzerella?) and they certainly didn't skimp on the spinich. But it was an omelet. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now that Fiore has a fairly faithful following, I guess they've felt comfortable jacking the prices of everything by a dollar and switching quality food for mediocre substitutes (ie the short rib for the vague-sounding "beef"). I don't mind the small price hike, but I really hope they don't start pulling back on anything else. I'll still be back for my monthly dinner, but I'm not expecting to take a bus ride for that brunch again anytime soon.

Below: Fiore frontview, patio, mozzerella omelet and beef hash.

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