Monday, October 10, 2011

Brooklyn Risotto Ball Rumble

I've been eating lunch at the recently opened Catania Cafe on Atlantic Avenue a lot lately. It's close to the Kings County Courthouse and has the benefit of being ultra-cheap (pretty much everything on the menu is under $10). Plus they specialize in hard-to find Sicilian food (if you're looking for more of the same, check out Joe's of Avenue U in Gravesend).

But I'll write about the rest of Catania Cafe's menu some other time (if you need some other dish recommendations now, check out this Chowhound thread). Today it's all about the risotto balls.

Here, the arancini sit like a fat teardrop among a bevy of fried Sicilian snacks and come filled with a chunky beef ragu laced with fontina cheese. It's slightly sweet crust marks a stark contrast to the savory interior. Unfortunately, the arancini tend to fall apart, making a fork almost necessary.

The best though is found at Arancini Bros., a former denizen of the Hester Street Fair that opened earlier this year next to the Wreck Room Bar along an industrial stretch of Flushing Avenue in Bushwick. Owners David Campaniello and Will Levatino seem to have found their groove with a limited, mostly rotating menu of rice balls (and a couple of other fried goodies I have yet to try). Their classic arancini allegedly has saffron in the mix, along with a pork and pea-dotted ragu encircled with mozzerella, but I couldn't taste much of the expensive ingredient. Regardless, these balls were damn good, cheesier than at Catania, and with much less sweetness in the crust. They also held together better.

Pro tip: if you like your balls hot, make sure they fry them a bit longer, since the insides sometime stays cool.

Also, they look disgusting when opened, joining the ranks of other non-photogenic treats such as doubles, tamales and most anything else I eat after 2 AM. Good thing too, since Arancini Bros. is open from 4PM til late at night, so if you find yourself wandering down Flushing Avenue at three in the morning, you're covered.

The ragu version is good, but carbonara is easily the best I've tried (probably because I'm a sucker for anything labeled as such). Eggs, pancetta, pecorino and a shower of pepper gives as close an effect of biting into the actual version as I've ever had. This is a so-called special arancino, but should stay on the menu forever as far as I'm concerned.

Try it now before it disappears forever.

Catania Cafe
193 Atlantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 522-2880

Arancini Bros.
940 Flushing Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11206
(718) 418-6347
Arancini Bros on Urbanspoon


  1. How awesome that you mentioned this place! I live in Downtown Broolyn and was craving some pizza the other night and saw that Catania is really highly-rated on Seamlessweb. Well, it's now probably my favourite pizza in all of NYC. Or at least a close, close second to Two Boots.

  2. Funny, I've never had the pizza. It looks really good though, I'll have to try it. I've liked pretty much everything else I've had there.

  3. Love to eat crispy food like that. Perhaps got to try this on weekend! Looks so delicious! Got to find recipe of it and will try making at home.

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