We wrote a review of Rucola three years ago, mostly focused on the fact that local food media had created so much hype around the opening of this restaurant that it would be impossible for it to live up to the expectations of anyone who was expecting it to be more than just a solid neighborhood joint. We certainly tried to love this place as much as the internet wanted us to, but it always came up short.
Lately we've been making return visits to Rucola, interested to see how things have developed, and to see what happens to a "buzz" restaurant after the foodie-industrial complex has moved on and stopped supporting a place because it's no longer new. What we can tell you is that Rucola is definitely better than it was in the early days. We still don't find the food to be so good that it's worth your time on the subway or waiting for a table if you don't live nearby. But if you happen to own a brownstone down the street, this is pretty much the perfect neighborhood restaurant (and congratulations on your perfect life). It's small and cozy and Perfect For a Sunday night dinner, assuming you weren't hoping to have the best meal of your entire life on that particular Sunday night.
We can also tell you that Rucola does not need us or anyone else to write reviews of it or make maps of it or take pictures of its avocado toast to stay in business. This place is on a permanent 45 minute wait, which would lead us to believe that the people of Brooklyn don't really care that this restaurant doesn't get written about anymore. That, or those "first look" pieces just have really long legs. People do love a pretty picture.
A simple arugula salad. This will be everything you want it to be, assuming you want it to just be a plate of arugula.
A classic Rucola menu item, though we've never found this Italian Branzino sushi to be something worth eating twice.
Basically nachos. Let me explain. Anytime you put a whole bunch of melted cheese on top of some kind of crunchy bread-like substance, it's nachos. These nachos happen to come on one piece of bread and have squash on top of them, but they're still nachos. And they're really good, as long as you eat them right away - the type of cheese that they use gets mealy and gritty as it starts to cool down.
One of those great, weird pasta noodles you're not used to seeing, sitting in a bowl with Fontina cheese, mushrooms, and breadcrumbs. It kind of has the taste of pasta in mushroom soup, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, assuming you're into mushroom soup.
Little tiny seashell-looking pasta in a lamb ragu with fresh ricotta. This is the best pasta we've had here, by a long shot. Order it.
If you're ordering an entree, this is the one you want. It's a simply roasted whole fish with lemon, olives, and chili flakes, and it's pretty damn excellent.
Not the whole bird, but a breast and some thigh meat, perfectly cooked, sliced, and placed atop some greens and smoked pancetta. This is GOOD.