The scene: We arrived early on a Saturday night, just as Sbrocco was filling up for the evening. We found a booth for two and were greeted warmly by our friendly and attentive waitress. The modern/indie music, plus the eclectic salvaged tabletops juxtaposed against high-back velvet booths, give the place a cool, downtown vibe.
The menu: Sbrocco recently hired Andrew Newberg as its executive chef. The 26-year-old previously worked at Taste! To Go Catering, La Mie and Baru 66. He took the reins at Sbrocco after former chef, James Beard Award-nominee Andrew Meek, agreed to run the kitchen at the soon-to-open Gramercy Tap in the former home of the Kirkwood Lounge.
Newberg says his menu reflects what he likes to eat: vegetable-focused, Mediterranean-based American cuisine.
Half of the menu is titled “social dining,” implying a shared food experience. These small-plate options include bite-sized portions of food like Moroccan chicken skewers served with harissa, a Tunisian chili sauce, ($12), and New Bedford scallops ($13). The second half of the menu is called “starters” and features larger servings. Mini crab cakes ($11) and a La Quercia plate, featuring artisan meats from the Iowa company ($14), caught our eye.
What we ate: Our waitress recommended the eggplant fritters ($8), and it was a terrific choice. Eggplant was roasted and chopped, combined with feta, fresh herbs and garlic, then fried and plated with muhammara sauce. The fritters were crunchy on the outside and smooth on the inside, and the sauce (made from roasted peppers and walnuts) provided a nice contrast.
We also tried the spicy ratatouille and Israeli couscous with red pepper coulis ($10). The vegetables — squash and zucchini — were fresh and well-seasoned. The red sauce (coulis), however, was the star. It provided smoky heat and contrast to the vegetables. The dish was served with toasted baguette slices, which gave each bite a nice crunch.
What we drank: Our waitress knew the wine menu well. She suggested Flight 5 ($10) — three samplings of red wines: an Argentinian malbec, an Italian barbera and a shiraz-cabernet from Australia. All of the wines tasted terrific with the dishes, but I was especially impressed with the Briccotondo barbera. Its woody, smoky flavor complemented the ratatouille impeccably.
Find it: 208 Court Ave.
Hours: The restaurant is open 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The bar is open 11 a.m.-close Monday through Saturday.
Specials: Half-price wine 10 p.m.-midnight Thursday and 11 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. All wines $9 or less are $5 during happy hour, 4-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday
Info: www.sbroccowine.com, 282-3663