444 Dean Street btw 5th Ave & Flatbush
Nestled in the shadow of Atlantic Yards is an unexpected surprise. Va Beh’ is a sophisticated oasis in the sea of quick bites and fast food restaurants, quietly waiting to serve you delicious, affordable, Italian cuisine. It’s a crisp, intimate setting of three wooden communal tables that sit six each and a row of ten stools along the bar. The whole front wall is a window, which lifts up in warmer weather, giving you the feel of a European café. Vases of fresh yellow tulips and tea candles dot the tables, along with little silver buckets of unshelled nuts and small plates of marinated olives that replace the ubiquitous bread basket. When the waiters (dressed in button-downs, bowties, and jeans and chattering in Italian behind the bar) catch you reading over their wine list written directly onto the marble wall behind them, they offer to do a table-side wine tasting of your top three choices. It’s an extensive list, which also includes prosecco on tap.
The menu is not quite as large, but it still proves difficult to narrow down. While it’s not particularly creative, it manages to hit all of the Italian classics. With only a few options for entrees, Va Beh’s strength lies in its range of appetizers which include crostini, salad, cheese, salumi, and small dishes. It would be easy to treat Va Beh’ as a tapas restaurant, rather than sticking to your standard courses. For the main dish, their homemade pastas shine, with a selection of simple sauce and vegetable or meat combinations. I have trouble choosing between the cavatelli with sausage and broccoli rabe, and the rigatoni with eggplant and primo sale, but I finally decide on the rigatoni, with mussels to start.
I can smell the mussels coming from the kitchen five minutes before they arrive at the table. When they’re set in front of me, simmering in their pot, I can hardly wait for them to cool down enough to eat. The tomato sauce is light, with parsley and whole cloves of garlic, and it compliments the mussels just so without overpowering them. I can still taste the ocean. And while Va Beh’ is a place that inspires you to be on your best behavior, I can’t help but lick the sauce from my fingers, not wanting to waste a drop on my napkin. This is the only moment I miss a bread basket, wishing I could scoop up the remaining sauce after the mussels are devoured. I manage to sneak a few spoonfuls before the pot is replaced with the pasta.
Happily, the sauce for the rigatoni is the same, but I have to pause after my first bite to sit and appreciate Va Beh’s homemade pasta, which has the perfect al dente chew to it. It’s a modestly sized and simple dish, but nonetheless very satisfying. The eggplant brings an earthy smokiness that adds the most interest, which is wonderfully complimented by the light-as-air crumbles of primo sale, a young lightly-salted sheep’s cheese. It’s not difficult to have a three-course meal for $30 at Va Beh’, so by all means you should finish off with one of their traditional desserts, like the sinfully creamy panna cotta, or the tiramisu. What really elevates the meal throughout each course is the standard of excellence for their ingredients. The freshness immediately transports me from the dreariness of my late-Spring visit, to when you’re likely reading this on a long, peaceful Summer day.
In their own words
Va Beh’s concept is simple — highest quality ingredients, uncomplicated dishes, no pretense.
Natives of central Milano, owners Andrea Alari and Qiana and Michele Bi Bari grew up immersed in the cuisine of Italys’ Cosmopolitan Metropolis. Milano, much like New York, is a multicultural city whose palette reflects its diversity. Michele and Andrea grew up surrounded by families who migrated to Milano, a city that seemed to always transcend regional divisions. This pride is reflected in the diversity of Va beh’s menu.
With over twenty years of experience in the culinary arts, hospitality, design, and entertainment arenas, Va beh’ was a meeting of the minds for these three. Nostalgic for home, they painstakingly created “one of the most authentic Italian restaurants in New York.” Housemade pastas and desserts, crostini, salumi, are all made even tastier by the enchanting and boisterous atmosphere. Greeted with an enthusiastic “Buona Sera!” by an animated and gracious Italian staff who both nurture and entertain, the atmosphere mirrors the elegance of the menu with marble walls, communal tables, and wine on tap.
Toughest critics- Italian natives and frequenters of Italy have described Va beh’ as their “go to when they are homesick,” a “mood lifter” and a “mini vacation overseas” The goal was to create dishes that stay true to what Italian cooking is all about “ simple dishes that highlight the natural taste of the ingredients…mangiare… “Mangiare Bene”.