Grub/Spirits Restaurant Reviews — 28 November 2011
CLOSED: Betto: A Restaurant Review

138 North 8th Street, near Berry Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Getting There: L to Bedford Avenue

(This restaurant has since CLOSED)

Typically when notable restaurateurs opt to open new outposts in Williamsburg, the prime real estate along Bedford Avenue comes calling for their business (see The Meatball Shop). And why not- the most trafficked block in the exploding metropolis sports block after block of bars and restaurants, with a subway stop to boot. Just off the beaten path, tucked around the block from Bedford, and the latest venture from the corsino, ‘ino, ‘inoteca family, sits Betto. After just opening this past summer, the rustic looking, bi-level restaurant has a style that is a bit of a departure from its sister spots but delivers the same requisite value and affordability we’ve come to expect from this team of eateries.

It’s been mentioned elsewhere that the bread and butter of proprietor Jason Denton’s other restaurants- the panini- is noticeably absent from Betto’s menu. But in their place come a rotation of seasonal grilled bruschettas, priced at just $3 each, or 5 for $12. Combinations like the creamy and subtle “ricotta and honey,” “cannelini bean” and the “basil pesto” taste freshly made and pair well with the grilled flavor of each toast, proving to be an excellent starter item. Betto also offers up a variety of cow and goat cheeses to plate (1 for $6, 3 for $16, 5 for $25) and a selection of other small dishes to share- from the bizarre (“rolled testa” $9- deboned pig’s head) to the more traditional (“grilled plums & burrata” $10; “spaghetti & meatballs” $18- made with brisket and pork belly). This evening’s special was a savory blend of pasta and meat- a “braised pork ravioli” ($15) concocted with whey and a light pesto filling with some broccoli raab beneath and some shaved pecorino cheese on top. The tender chunks of salted pork were embedded in the excellently prepared envelopes of fresh pasta, and were complimented by the fresh basil filling without being overly doused in sauce.

What is most interesting about Betto’s nightly menu is their constantly revolving assortment of entrée items. Their dinner menu is in a special format and as such whole animals rotate daily- each is served at a separate per person price along with three different sides to be shared. Each night features a different, meatier fare like pigs, lambs, and game birds, or the fish of the day, which may be served whole or filleted. With heavy doses of pork earlier, we opted for the “porgy,” the daily catch served at market price per person. The fish filets were pan seared and delivered with two different condiment sauces and some freshly grilled lemon for squeezing. The flaky filets were cooked nicely, with a flawlessly primed salty skin and tender warm meat underneath. Unfortunately however, although filleted, the porgy still was served to us with many of its bones left inside, which can be a detriment when having to pick them out of your mouth after each chew. While that stifled our enjoyment of the meal to a degree, the flavors of the fish remained sufficient enough to appease us overall. Betto’s prepared seasonal sides included a creamy polenta, which tasted remarkably like delicious grits, roasted whole carrots with a thick, house made crème fraiche, and large slices of roasted pumpkin. The sides were each distinctive but seemed to hit all of the sample tastes that we were looking for in an autumn dinner spot on.

Even with a couple bottles of red Italian wine ordered, our dinner bill at Betto was not excessive. The many shared plates and affordable items afford the opportunity to taste a lot of delicious food without having to overspend, which is something that this restaurant group always manages to get right. Betto may not be the most posh or chic restaurant that you dine at this year, nor does it need to be. What it is however, is an excuse for you to enjoy a fine evening out in Williamsburg, and leave yourself with some money to spend at the fun surrounding bars in town once your quality dinner ends.

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