The Caesar is one of the most iconic of salads, and often the only one served at most restaurants, particularly low-end ones, that and the ‘House Salad.’ The Caesar is the one vegetable-including dish that most kids will eat because of the creamy dressing and cheese that coats each piece of green, disguising it from being blatantly noticed as a vegetable. The less color, the more appealing. This idea of the Caesar has lost its place on the dinner menu, and has been replaced by something far more elegant, and healthy.
At Speedy Romeo, a newborn in the Clinton Hill, Brooklyn food scene, they take the classic and make it better than it probably was ever intended to be. It defies the cultural norm of what a salad is supposed to be. The leaves are simply placed on the plate in a neat pile, not chopped, and the cheese is thoughtfully grated in an airy mist that must have been done freshly for each plate, not from pre-grated shreddings. Instead of anchovies being mysteriously mixed into the dressing, the flesh of one lone fish is perfectly placed atop the fresh crisp leaves of romaine, and the dressing (which I got on the side) had an intriguing mustard-y bite which I have never before tasted in a Caesar.
Deconstructed salads and simplicity have been more popular recently in restaurants, but often only at fancy high-end ones that emphasis art over appetite. Speedy Romeo is nothing of the sort. It’s located in a former auto parts and liquor store in an up up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood, and the portions of each dish are definitely not too small. The restaurant is of a decent size, and has a nice cozy and casual feel about it. Tables line the front window, and a bar behind them overlooks the space’s prized wood-burning oven and stove where pizzas are baked, and meats are grilled. It tasted like my pork chops benefited from the wood fuel because they were cooked perfectly; slightly crisped on the outside, and tender in the inside, a combination which left me excavating my plate for any morsels of meat left behind. The pork was accompanied by a couple of slices of grilled fennel and a cup of white beans; all the makings for the perfect winter dish. Before I ordered, I inquired about the locality of the meat, trying not to sound too much like I was on an episode of Portlandia. But I was reassured that they were from a good farm in New York. Pretty much all of the ingredients, save for the Italian tomato sauces, are from local farms upstate and in New Jersey.
The service at this joint matches it’s name. My party was in and out in about an hour, but we spent just as much time waiting for our table as we did at it. I guess that’s a good sign for a new restaurant, though, especially one slightly off the beaten path of the average city slickers’ friday night. And since this was only a week after opening, I’d say that Speedy Romeo can look forward to a lightning-bright future ahead.