Down Vanderbilt Ave in Clinton Hill Brooklyn is a wonderful Italian Restaurant (although you’d never know it from the outside) that takes you off the streets of Brooklyn and into another world entirely. It belongs in either upstate New York, or Long Island, and that is not an insult to either location. Graziella’s is a unique and cozy family spot with fantastic food…and horrible service. Jess and I keep going back and we keep getting aggravated with the wait, but the food…it makes up for it every time.
We went to Graziella’s looking for classic Italian food on warm late summer evening about a year and a half ago. The downstairs restaurant was empty so we thought our night would be perfect. How could they screw up the service if no one was in there? We were sadly mistaken when we realized that everyone was upstairs on the roof deck. Thinking we could beat the rush up there we were seated in the main dining room (after a ten minute wait – which was preposterous because it was absolutely empty and three people told us we couldn’t sit down).
Like many local places we love, we have our dishes, which we tend to order again and again. We started with the fried calamari that is absolutely some of the best I have ever had. The batter is light and crisp and not greasy at all. The calamari is tender and perfectly cooked. This dish can easily be a plate or greasy rubber bands in most places, but Graziella’s does it to perfection with a zesty marinara sauce for dipping. We followed this with linguine in white clam sauce (for Jess) and wild mushroom ravioli (for me). The clam sauce is served in a classic garlic, oil and white wine sauce with perfectly steamed baby clams. The clams are served in their shells and garnished lightly with fresh parsley. Like many of the dishes here, it’s simple and straightforward. The wild mushroom ravioli is a bit more involved but it maintains the hearty comfort food theme. The portobello cream sauce is light and delicious with bits of mushroom, not over powering or filling. The ravioli are clearly handmade and stuffed with a mix of wild mushrooms…it’s a creamy mushroom dream.
This may sound like a simple, quick dinner, but again I have to stress that we often wait at least 20 minutes between dishes for service. Oh fortunes fool! We still continue to go to Graziella’s because it is like eating in your hometown; good quality food, that satisfies. Other great dishes are the baked clams and bruschetta for starters. Gorgonzola and walnut aalad is also fantastic albeit a bit heavy on the dressing. You cannot loose with their signature brick oven pizza. Plain Margherita is classic and light with a bright tomato sauce and thin, crisp crust. The Prosciutto and Mozzarella topped pizza is a personal favorite. Entrees of note are the pesto with orecchiette, and the penne vodka.
The roof deck, amazing food and cozy atmosphere make up for the absurd waits and forgotten dishes. Give Graziella’s a chance and you will be back again and again.