Leo Has Its Finger on the Pulse

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Hannah Goldfield reviews the Williamsburg restaurant, whose heirloom beans, pillowy lasagna, and pizza with naturally fermented dough present a snapshot of our current culinary moment.
Improbable but undeniable: beans are having a moment. Last December, the food Web site Eater published an essay called "Cool Beans," which detailed "How the humble legume—especially heirloom varieties—became the go-to ingredient for home cooks." (In 2018, this magazine profiled Rancho Gordo, the largest, and cultiest, retailer of heirloom beans in the U.S.) As of this month, you can buy a book, unaffiliated, called "Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein," by the food editor of the Washington Post.

The San Giuseppe pie, topped with tomato sauce, spicy sausage, onions, olives, and provolone. Photograph by Zachary Zavislak for The New Yorker

And so you could say that the people behind Leo, which opened last fall in Williamsburg, have their fingers on the pulse, pun intended (and apologized for). For several years, Ops, a restaurant in Bushwick with some of the same owners, has had simply prepared beans on its menu. At Leo, Scarlet Runners, an heirloom variety, are gently braised with garlic, rosemary, and sage until easily crushed between the teeth but still firm and meaty, generously salted, and finished with a glug of grassy olive oil.

Meatballs in marinara sauce come with naturally fermented sourdough. Wine, too, is naturally fermented. Photograph by Zachary Zavislak for The New Yorker

Anthropologists reading this in the future, take note: Leo is a useful time capsule, a snapshot of right now. To drink with the beans, there is natural…
Hannah Goldfield
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