A few weeks ago, I took Anna to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to check out the cherry blossoms that were just starting to bloom. The first few trees we saw were still barren, their empty branches fidgeting in the wind.
After making our way deeper into the garden, we saw a Japanese Flowering Cherry in bloom.
Despite the frigid weather in the 50’s, there was still a decent number of tourists milling about, happily snapping pictures to prove that spring had finally sprung.
This exhibit was interesting - don’t touch the nightshade!
After some Shakespeare, we curved around the bend and saw a beautiful Japanese Torii, the fiery red gate standing out as a focal point against the peaceful cherry blossoms and water.
All that walking made us hungry. We ubered our way to Carroll Gardens to check out Fragole, an Italian restaurant that my colleague, Xavier, recommended. Tucked away on a nondescript street, the restaurant displayed a menu of that night’s offerings outside. It was around 5pm and we were the only ones in the restaurant.
The brick wall and dark wood of the bar gave off a charming and cozy vibe. It felt like one of those neighborhood joints that had regulars stopping by for decades.
We started with an order of asparagus soup that they nicely split into two bowls. The server was cordial as he brought the pepper mill over the bowl and gave it a few crunchy twists. Despite the watery texture, it was full of flavor.
There was no cream or anything else to enhance or distract. Just pure asparagus flavor with cracked black pepper. Our portions were huge even though the soup was split two ways. Highly recommended.
Next, we ordered another special, their crab cakes with spicy tomato sauce. The salad was great and the grape tomatoes were juicy but unfortunately, the crab cakes were not the star. Too bready and a bit bland. Skip.
Luckily, that was the only low point of the meal as our pastas were stellar. Anna’s fusilli with mussels, zucchini and light tomato sauce infused with the slight brininess of the mussels was superb. The fusilli was cooked al dente and the sauce was drinkable by the liter. The accompanying roasted green and yellow zucchini were juicy and retained some bite. Overall, a refreshing spring pasta dish.
My homemade pappardelle with honey-braised short rib ragu was exactly how Xavier described it: Hearty and Heavenly.
I made sure each bite had a ribbon of pasta with a mound of the meltingly soft short rib ragu that had a hint of sweetness. The freshly shaved parmigiano reggiano lended a nice umami finish.
We were too full to try their homemade desserts this time but will revisit this hidden gem again if I'm ever in the area.
If you want to hit up the Brooklyn Botanic Garden beforehand, now is a great time. Check out their website to see what flowers are in bloom. Peonies are going nuts right now.
Get: Pastas are recommended - we enjoyed both of them. Also check out their soup of the day. Apparently, they also have a kickass caramel mascarpone cheesecake (which I am trying next time)
Casual ambiance: Great spot for dates or for groups. Not pretentious and not a place that "tries too hard". Solid food in ample portions at a great price.