Ooph...that was a mouthful, I know. Right now, it seems like the Arts District is THE hot place for new restaurants and bars. The only problem is that the area is so spread out (with nothing but abandoned warehouses in between), it's not entirely conducive to hopping around from place to place for drinks, dinner, and the like. So it comes as no surprise that when selecting a location for the new Officine Brera, the minds behind The Factory Kitchen chose a large, airy, industrial-chic space in this neighborhood that is right around the corner (or, rather, right around the parking lot, gun range, and indoor rock gym) from their almost 3-year-old restaurant, making them two peas in the perfect-night-out pod. And while we would definitely love to come back to Officine Brera for dinner (we've heard only great things), we recommend taking advantage of the beautiful space and natural light for grabbing early evening drinks, and then hopping over to The Factory Kitchen for a laid-back yet intimate dinner.
Which is exactly what Kyle and I did on our recent jaunt t the Arts District. The Officine Brera space is large and beautiful, with a sort of modern grandeur that's humbled by the wood, industrial, and brick accents.
Before our reservation at Factory Kitchen, Kyle and I each grabbed a drink (though we could've easily had about 2-3 each). I ordered the Caprice, which to me, seemed like a really nice modern take on a classic cocktail. The gin, aperol, and egg whites had a vintage vibe to it, but the rhubarb bitters and lemon made it fresh, citrus-y, and fun. Kyle really enjoyed the L'emigrante, which he said was a fun play on a Gold Rush with the hints of lime and cherry.
Next, we took a quick walk over to The Factory Kitchen for dinner. The interior is much more cozy, with a mix of modern and classic elements. Though the vibe is decidedly more intimate, it somehow feels more laid-back and casual.
Pretty much everyone who worked at the restaurant recommended the Prosciutto to us, so obviously we had to get it (it has two of my trigger words: prosciutto and burrata). The prosciutto was buttery and flavorful, and came elegantly layered on top of an airy fried sage dough (it reminded me of a much more moist filo dough flatbread situation). It was a substantial appetizer, even when split between two people, but really delicious nonetheless. The burrata and prosciutto paired together perfectly, while the fried dough provided a perfect, crunchy foundation. Seriously, what's not to like about this?
For our first pasta, we indulged in the lamb gnocchi. The ricotta dumplings were really tasty, and the ridged shape actually gave it a nice chew. Tender and meaty, the lamb provided a really nice hearty, earthy aspect that was complemented well by the acidic tomato sauce. A really great pasta dish.
Another highly recommended dish, the Mandilli is one of the restaurant's signature pastas. And after tasting it, we could see why. While I'm usually one that prefers pesto in moderation, the pesto was really light yet creamy, and formed a perfect coating for the luxurious and fresh handkerchief pasta. All together, the dish was surprisingly light, really fresh, and incredibly tasty in its sheer simplicity.
Though we were incredibly full at this point, we had to get the Porchetta after countless recommendations. While we could both only muster a few bites before we had to be rolled out of the restaurant, I'm so glad we ordered this. The pork belly was really tender, with a perfect crispiness on the outside. The aromatic herbs made the pork really flavorful, and the accompanying veggies were a nice but superfluous touch. Another great signature dish. We ended up taking the Porchetta home, which eaten between two slices of bread would make the perfect next-day sandwich.
Overall, our night out in the Arts District was really fun. Our drinks at Officine Brera only left us wanting more, and we'll certainly be back for dinner sometime soon. The meal at The Factory Kitchen was a perfect end to the night; we surmised that the restaurant would be a great spot for a date night or even a pre/post theater dinner. I loved the convenience of being able to actually walk from one Arts District locale to another, and how spacious and comfortable each space was (unlike some of our meals in more crowded corners of the city).