Ainslie: Wine Bar, Beer Garden, and Italian Food
Here I was lost again in this huge city. This time, I was in Williamsburg finding my way on Google Maps, sometimes staring up at the beautiful graffiti, and other times observing the modern buildings of the hipster area. I was searching for Ainslie: a loom-factory turned into a 10,000 square foot Italian restaurant. It just opened and I had to try it, but I couldn't find it. So, I walked and walked, zoomed my screen in and out, until I finally saw it. It looks so distinct than anything else in the area. There really was no need for Google Maps.
The red-lit, wooden exterior is hard not to notice, especially amongst the concrete buildings surrounding it. And from the inside, Ainslie is even more intriguing. Simply put: It looks like a warehouse, filled with plants, bars and chandeliers. It also has red lights that contrast the wooden interior’s greenery. Weird? Yes. Pretty? HELL YES! As I was walking in, I was pleasantly surprised with small, hidden decor that added charm to the place like a hidden beer garden, stacked empty wine bottles, wooden mezzanines... It feels like a huge, elegant, tree-house in the heart of Williamsburg. And being surrounded by skylights the entire time in this city, I was so happy to feel like I'm in nature (minus the bugs).
As I was exploring the place, a staircase guided me towards the second-floor of the multi-level restaurant. There was a cozy and chic mezzanine waiting for me at the end of the stairs. The ambiance was similar to the rest of the place. And in the center of the room, there was a big buffet, full of Italian deliciousness. BELLISSIMA! Ainslie’s kitchen is helmed by NYC Veteran Chef John DeLucie, as well as Erasmo ‘Mino” Lassandro, who hails from Italy and mans the restaurant’s wood fired oven for the exquisite pizza. From fresh ravioli, to chicken parmigiana, and the Ainslie Burger (Gorgonzola Dolce served on a brioche bun), all of the food looks elegant and is eye-pleasing. The star-dish of the night was definitely the pizza. The woody taste of the dough and the quality of the cheese is just perfecto! The other MVP of the night were undoubtedly Ainslie’s signature cocktails from Jessica Dure. I tried the “Funky Sweet Thing” that bursts in the mouth with honey, and lavender flavors. I also had the “Fall Like Confetti”, and indeed I fell. I fell in love with the sweet-and-sour taste of that refreshing drink. I could feel the confetti in my stomach.
Then, it was time for dessert. It started with Italian sorbets that waiters were offering in small cups. The quality of the passionfruit and vanilla ice-creams were so savory that it felt like I was biting right from the fruit itself. But that wasn’t the dessert. As I was still enjoying my ice-cream, I suddenly see cameras pointing to the opposite side of the room, and saw what the fuss was all about. A man carrying a huge wooden tray on his shoulder, that was full of fresh-out-of-the-oven Nutella calzones. After placing them on the table, the man cut it in front of the guests and everyone was mouth-watering in front of the dripping hot chocolate. I got a piece, sat in my chair, and tried it. It was just what I needed to conclude my night: sweet, but not heavy. Dinner was over but I didn’t want to leave.
I felt so comfortable in the cozy restaurant that I hung there a little to wander around. I decided to go up the stairs to check what was behind the upper-level door. I opened, and it turned out that this huge place was also hiding a rooftop bar! It is cozy, illuminated, and filled with seats. Just what guests need for a breath of fresh air. I went down again to walk amongst the shiny chandeliers and vibrant greeneries, but it was time for me to leave. I walked toward the exit, unlocked my phone, but something caught my eye. There was a vintage typing machine on a random shelf. “Another surprise,” I thought to myself before closing the door behind me, and Google-mapping my way back home.