Restaurant Review: La Familia Restaurant in South Brooklyn

 “More has To Happen” has conquered film criticism, dramatic theory, and national security, and dabbled in poetry. And now I have to take on that most urgent of contemporary art forms: food criticism. I will start with the restaurant I frequent most often.

La Familia

Everything about La Familia was perfect this morning as usual. I was charmed from the moment the waitress took a third time to clarify that I didn’t want any meat with my eggs, just potatoes, as in “What kind of lunatic turns down bacon when it’s only a dollar extra?” The coffee, just a few hours old, was tannic and earthy like a hearty Cahors that had been left uncorked for a weekend. The wheat toast came with a plastic ramekin of margarine that was pre-softened and ready to spread. The over-medium eggs with home fries arrived on a square plate that looked like a Thai restaurant had had a going-out-of business sale, a charming touch only topped by the curly-cue of straw wrapper at the top of the plastic straw in my water.

The music, as always, was 106.7 Lite FM. Adele, I realized, has taken her place in the pantheon of soft rock: Perry, Sting, Fogelberg, Raitt, ADELE. As the caffeine and starch caressed my blood stream, everything about the world was suddenly enchanting. The truck horns outside. The electrical tape holding the back of the “Open” sign together. The photo of the owner in a starched chef’s jacket on the wall. And the fan blowing sultry air from the grape arbor in back – a leftover from the previous, Greek proprietors, I’m guessing – through the restaurant and onto 4th Avenue, defiant in the face of the juggernaut of air-conditioning.

Before I moved to New York, I imagined a place full of esoteric arguments about art. Ascetics with tiny apartments spending their spare dollars on partially-obstructed tickets to the Philharmonic, reading reviews of Bulgarian cinema while they wait in line. In reality, it’s more of a place where the cognoscenti chintz on cultural purchases so they can splurge on food, wine and cocktails. And read and write about it. Stuffing their faces and getting drunk, and becoming experts at it.

I love to cook and entertain and eat, but, sorry foodies, it’s not the same as art. I’m delighted  to see a critical backlash coalescing, but fear that it’s too little too late. When I see the volume of brain power expended on keeping informed about the latest trends in food and wine, I can’t help but wonder how much better cinema would be if it were taken so seriously by so broad a public.