You know those places you build up in your head until they’ve reached mythical proportions? Like the bar in your college town that you actually had to wait until you were 21 to get into, or the apartment of the person you’ve been on six dates with, or The Olive Garden? Aita was one of those places for us.
On a quiet, charming corner on the Clinton Hill/Fort Greene border, Aita always called to us. We’re easily seduced by neighborhood Italian spots, and whenever we passed this one it always looked especially enticing: a communal wooden table, a nice bar, outdoor gazebos that are actually warm, and lots of people that always look so g*ddamn cozy.
And just like how your college town bar ended up just being a bar, and The Olive Garden ended up just being a sad place with stale unlimited breadsticks, Aita is exactly as you would expect: a solid casual neighborhood Italian spot. The usuals suspects are all here (little gem salad, burrata, grilled octopus, pastas), made with rotating seasonal ingredients, and good - though none are particularly memorable. This is the kind of place you’re lucky to have if you live nearby, but not somewhere you need to build an entire night around visiting.
So if you find yourself in Clinton Hill on a date, or with a few friends, or with your parents - Aita will give you what you need. Once you factor in its secret attached bar around the corner (Mayflower), you’ll even have more than you need. And that’s worth a whole lot more than unlimited breadsticks.
A nice and kind of different way to start your meal: gooey burrata on top of roasted squash. It all comes with some well-dress arugula and lots of pumpkin seeds - basically fall on a plate, but in a good way.
The richest option of the pastas - little pillows of oxtail meat in a brown sauce. The small-ish size of the dish keeps this from feeling over the top. But while Aita is definitely affordable, those small sizes are also what keeps it from feeling like a true value spot.
Tossed with a super savory ragu and topped with plenty of shaved parm, this is exactly what we crave when it’s cold out and we need to feel something again. The pasta itself has a nice bounce to it, but you’ll probably just want more ravioli by the end.
In all our times coming here, we always stuck to appetizers and pastas, which turned out to be foolish. The sole is seared with lemongrass-beurre blanc, smashed fingerling potatoes, sunchokes, shallot, and thyme, which sounds like a lot, but is an oddly nice and light way to chase however many pastas you cover your table with.
Crema al Tiramisu
It’s hard to find straight-up bad tiramisu and Aita’s version is mostly fine. Our one piece of advice: Keep an eye out for all the cocoa powder on top. If you accidentally breathe in as you take a bite, it can feel cinnamon challenge-esque.