Ringolevio is the kind of place that made a Brooklynite feel proud to discover: A bit off the beaten path, suitable to bring a date or your visting parents, and serving up very affordable, reliably mediocre Italian food in a cozy, decidedly non-hipster environment in East Williamsburg.
But things have changed: The opening of FourFiveSix bar in the massive space behind Ringolevio’s almost-tiny dining room has put the entire operation on the radar. A recent visit on a Friday night can be described only as a scene; by a certain a hour a hostess was running defense at the entry to FourSixFive bar reachable from the restaurant (there’s also a direct entrance from the outside, after passing through what looks like a flea market full of small cafe tables that are empty this time of year, and maybe always).
The space, which appears to have once operated as some kind of warehouse, is filled with comfortable couch seating surrounding the bar with just-kitschy-enough art covering the wall all the way to the ceiling. If anyone can remember the Musical Box bar that was in the East Village about a century ago (anyone? anyone?), you might feel a twinge of nostalgia.
Still, don’t get too comfortable on the couches and chairs against the back wall, as they are in fact situated on a stage, something that might not be obvious to you until someone hauling an amp politely asks you to GTFO. FourFiveSix hosts live jazz beginning around 8pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursday nights; we have also witnessed this early on a Sunday evening. On Friday nights a DJ comes in and cranks it up in more ways than one.
The full Ringolevio menu is available at FourFiveSix, but we suggest eating dinner in the restaurant and sticking to drinks and snacks here. Highly recommended is the Moms Mapley, a standard Old Fashioned improved with a gentle touch of maple syrup; if your taste runs smokier than sweet, go with the Mezcal Old Fashioned. And if you don’t love the brown stuff, try the Lavendula, with lavender-infused Tito’s, grapefruit, and honey, or the Ginger Caipirinha, which is exactly as it sounds, and really good. The cocktails are perfectly acceptable at $12 a piece.
I’ve been to Ringolevio a bunch of times, and I have never met a red (or pink) wine from their by-the-glass list I didn’t like. Though Ringolevio is an Italian joint, the Spanish wines are always a treat: Splurge on a Ribera del Duoro ($11) or a simpler Tempranillo, a steal at $8. Grab a meat and cheese plate (the cheese selection truly is stellar, and so is the presentation), and cozy in for a lovely winter’s night. But do bundle up: the vibe at FourFiveSix is always warm, but the space can be a little chilly, at least until the crowds roll in.