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The building’s an eyesore—a 22-story clunker jutting out from the squat Williamsburg skyline—but the basement, oddly enough, is a beauty. At the subterranean foot of the William Vale Hotel rests Leuca, the third dining concept from chef-restaurateur Andrew Carmellini (Locanda Verde, the Dutch) and his NoHo Hospitality team at the hotel. (The group also oversees rooftop bar Westlight and burger-slinging Airstream Mister Dips.)
It’s a surprisingly expansive space, that basement, aided by soaring ceilings and light-catching marble surfaces. The front room is a brighter affair, with vast stretches of hand-painted tile and barstools the color of biscotti; through archways that flank the marble bar, you’ll find the main dining room, monochromatic in tawny leather save for oversize black-and-white portraits from photographer Rich Kubiszewski. It’s an attractive, adult addition to the ’hood, but you never quite shake the feeling that it’s the kind of place to bring your parents when they finally decide to venture to Williamsburg.
The menu, too, is smart and civilized but largely safe. Carmellini takes inspiration from Italy’s south, yielding dishes like a starter of sheep’s-milk ricotta folded with warm honey and toasted garlic ($12). It’s served with Sicilian bread, but you’re quickly instructed to save some of the cheese to spread on your pizza later—it acts as a rich, sweet foil to a char-pocked pie zestfully topped with pepperoni, nduja and Fresno chilies ($16). This is a great tip; just prepare to tell the busboy three, no, four times that, “yes, we’re still enjoying that plate, thanks.”
Pastas range on the scale of potency: On the meeker side, you’ll find mezzaluna pillows that all but bury the burrata with which they’re supposedly filled ($19); more memorable is the wonderful mafaldini, with crimped ribbons that wind around a bitter, earthy rapini pesto popped with sweet and sour peppers ($17). Of the flame-grilled mains, the beautifully juicy chicken Rosalina for two makes a lasting impression with its thrum of blistered peppers ($48). You—and your mom—will love it.