Ever since I snagged one of the last veal meatballs from Lido’s table at Harlem’s first Nighttime Farmers Market, I have been desperate to go to Lido for dinner. So, when we finally managed to get through the door late one bitter cold Saturday in January, I was overjoyed. Our party of four was seated promptly, and instantly started to thaw once we settled into the buzzing dining room. Offering a menu rich with classic Italian combinations such as salt cod and potato, fennel and orange, or kale and canelli beans, I was instantly at home and excited about trying their fresh take on these traditional Italian favorites. Some might be critical of Lido’s heavy reliance upon tried and true flavors, but I actually loved the comforting predictability of Lido’s selection. To the kitchen’s credit, everything we ordered was thoughtfully and professionally executed; and each dish had a modern feel imprinted with a purposeful nod towards the rustic simplicity that made all of these dishes possible to begin with.
With sturdy staples like spaghetti and roasted veal meatballs and Lasagna Bolognese to anchor the menu, Lido successfully provides truly appetizing comfort food for primi (appetizers), inslata (salads), contorni (sides), secondi (mains), and dolce (desserts). Framing classic flavor combinations like pumpkin and sage and sage with brown butter in a ravioli package, or and a caponata-esque cauliflower to accompany a red snapper, Lido relies upon and deviates from the classics in all of the right ways. Had Lido opened on the Upper East Side it could have easily be lost among the countless above-average Italian restaurants that pepper the neighborhood (Bocca and Uva, to name a few), but here on Frederick Douglas Blvd, amid a sea of diversely flavored competitors, it shines on every level from food and service to ambiance and drinks.
Il Tigre Cocktail: Intrigued by the mix of uncommon ginger liqueur and old school Benedictine, we both ordered the Il Tigre cocktail. Brought to our table in a chilled shaker and gracefully poured into orange garnished martini glasses, the drink had an intense burbon punch with a refreshing citrus twist. If you are looking to start enjoying your evening two sips into your first cocktail, Il Tigre will be the helping hand you need.
Crab Cake Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, Braeburn Apple Salad, Saffron Aioli: Because Keith asked for his crab cake to be served with our entrees, I was too absorbed in my pasta to realize that he had eaten all but three apple sticks and a celery leaf by the time I looked up. I only got to try the crisp and tangy apple salad that beautifully fried crab cake sat upon. Keith assures me that it was good, but I can neither confirm nor deny his claim because it was gone before I could even get a bite.
Garganelli, Braised Wild Boar, Red Wine, Parmesan: For me, the ultimate winter comfort food is any kind of meat slow braised in a tomato red wine sauce, so of course I ordered the wild boar braised in exactly that. Though garganelli is a beautiful rolled pasta sheet decorated with horizontal ribs, the true star of my plate was the hearty tomato red wine sauce heavy with tender boar. Garnished with salty fleck of aged Parmesean studded with the lovely brightness basil, this pasta dish was excellent. (Full Dinner Disclosure: 3 out of our 4 diners ordered the Garganelli and 2 out of the 3 of us cleared our plates.)
Spaghetti, Roasted Veal Meatballs, San Marzano Tomato, Basil: After missing a taste of the crab cake, I made sure I twirled a nest of spaghetti on to my fork and into my mouth before Keith had a chance to rob me of a bite yet again. Had I given him the opportunity he would have done it yet again because those meatballs were good. Meatball compliments are few and far between with me because I have around 18 years of Nonna’s Sunday Lunch Meatballs setting a precedent. But, because these were veal meatballs (Nonna always made them with ground beef, hard grated cheese, and breadcrumbs), Lido’s were of a totally different breed. Light, moist, and flavorful, I think that the tenderness of the young beef (which may have been mixed with some type of airy ricotta?) really went well with the tangy tomato sauce and al dente spaghetti.