There's a new kid on the block in Park Slope, a playground for diners looking for serious eats in an attractive, if noisy setting. Hugo & Sons, offspring of Chef Andrea Taormina and his wife, Rebecca Tory, is set in a landmarked building that housed a butcher shop back in the 40's; they've turned it into oasis of charm with zinc topped tables, big windows and a stunning tile floor.
The other night, the din was so loud we could barely hear our waitress describe the specials. Good thing that the food is delicious starting with my appetizer of Sicilian meatballs, three orbs of grass-fed beef combined with pistachios and raisins sitting in a sauce puddle that begged to be sopped with the attendant slice of toast. Crisped artichokes beckoned as did the charcuterie plate with a variety of Italian meats but I moved onto the strozzapreta, Hugo's take on the twisty pasta shape known as "priest strangler, " that is said to commemorate gluttonous priests who ate the pasta too quickly and choked on it (as well as other interpretations.) The menu says the strozzapreta has a "brisket sauce." It also has olives and a strong kick of red pepper punching it up. The rock shrimp linguini is also pleasantly nippy with lemon zest, garlic and chilies. One of the evening's specials was an intriguing octopus starter that sounded good as did the pork braciole with bread crumbs, pine nuts, raisins, parsley, Parmesan and hard-cooked eggs but the evening felt too warm for a meat-centric meal--not that this stopped other diners.
Service is slow and somewhat uneven, probably because the place is both popular and understaffed.
The owners have wisely kept the menu fairly small, a smart move as the place finds its footing. Of the four desserts on offer my dining companion and I opted for the Zuppa Inglese, the famed "English Soup" usually made with sponge cake or ladyfingers. This version an "Italian trifle" was good if gloppy, generously dotted with bittersweet chocolate flakes yet not overly sweet. The usual Italian coffee suspects are available (latte, macchiato, espresso) as are a large selection of teas.
Apparently there is a pizzeria connected with Hugo's located around the corner. As I didn't see it all I can say is it's said to have a variety of offerings and doesn't require reservations which are a smart move for Hugo's proper.
The wine list ranges over France, Italy, the USA and the Canary Islands offering wines that are minimally processed and available as glasses, quartos and bottles. There are also creative cocktails like the Capizza, named for the chef's great uncle, that turns vodka, cucumber and lime into a refreshing summer drink.