The past year has seen an influx of hip bars, stylish coffee shops and buzzworthy restaurants opening up in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Enter Sud Vino & Cucina, the latest of these ventures, which opened up a few months ago. Given its stiff, stark, black exterior and southern Italian fare, it’s a surprising addition to the hood, but not an unwelcome one.
Once inside, the vibe softens with rustic wooden tables and chairs, a long polished bar, art by local photographers and painters and low, golden light. Sud also boasts an outdoor area, which, with a large umbrella and a total lack of trees, felt more backyard barbecue than swank cafe. Once darkness began falling, however, flickering candles created a sense of coziness with a romantic vibe, and with appetizers like the fresh tomato laden brushetta ($6) and a glass of wine like the plumy Montepulciano ($8), the area around the restaurant faded away.
The first time this happened was after we ordered a few crostini, including the albicocca e taleggio ($7). When it arrived, we didn’t expect much from the toasted bread with an orange smattering of what looked like jam, but its flavor stunned us with a bright sweetness made creamy by the mild cheese. All the crostini are made with focaccia by SCRATCHbread, an artisan bakery with a cult following that whips up its goods right across the street from Sud.
Another day, I also tried the special burrata ($9), a milky mozzarella they import from Italy. Despite the journey, the cheese maintained a superb freshness and mouth-watering consistency. The caprese salad ($12) also won us over with thick slices of firm, sweet tomatoes paired with Buffalo mozzarella and leaves of fresh basil. For an umami burst, get an order of mixed Sicilian olives ($6) and a plate of their rotating cured meats ($12). Neither showed real innovation, but both are solid Italian starters.
While these staples litter the menu, the real reason to eat at Sud can be found in their limited list of homemade pastas, which change every few weeks. One evening they featured an astonishingly light vegetarian lasagna special ($14), made with layers of thin pasta coated with a buoyant Bechamel sauce and salty parmesean, and layered with roasted carrots, sweet peas, eggplant, yellow squash and zucchini. When paired with a glass of the dry Graccheto ($8), it made a perfect meal for a summer night.
The rigatoni alla Norma ($11), with eggplant and ricotta salata, impressed me less, though the actual pasta shined through. Sud’s pappardelle ($13) came out in long, supple strands that snaked around zesty chunks of rabbit with bits of tomato, and didn’t even need the crack of pepper our waiter offered. But hands down, the best dish I sampled was the tagliolini neri ai calamari ($14), a black ink pasta with slivers of tender squid and a light tomato sauce. The sweetness of the cephalopod harmonized with the rich pasta, and even though at one point my stomach cried defeat, my brain wouldn’t comprehend and I finished the hearty bowl.
Sud doesn’t offer much in the way of dessert, which honestly is fine by me. The pastas and small plates are enough of a reason to return, and the non-Manhattan prices and over-saturation of people make Sud more of a causal place for fine dining—especially nice if you just want to stroll in. Service also proved relaxed, and one of the Italian owners or young, brighteyed locals often waited on us.
Getting people to explore Bed-Stuy may remain a challenge, but perhaps, like the brilliant (and packed) Neapolitan pizza place Saraghina that lies further into the ‘hood, if Sud becomes synonymous with quality and solid eats, people will start to make the trek into lands unknown.
>> Sud Vino & Cucina
1102 Bedford Ave. (betw. Quincy St. & Lexington Ave.) Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, www.sudnyc.com.