Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City

THE PINES, 284 3rd Avenue (between Carroll and President Street), Gowanus, Brooklyn

Testa might sound like the name of a rock band (and it probably is), but in Italian, it translates to head. When talking about food, the word testa is much more appealing than “head cheese,” but that’s just what it is. And for those that don’t know what “head cheese” is, you can probably use your imagination. As gross as it may sound, when done right, it’s mighty delicious. As long as you like meaty, fatty pork flavors.

The Pines was a total treat. It’s right in the middle of what’s becoming Brooklyn’s restaurant row in the unlikely neighborhood of Gowanus. Originally opened by the same owners as nearby seafood shack Littleneck, The Pines got a lot of press right out the bat. I learned that the two restaurants are no longer affiliated (aside from sharing a block) and The Pines now must stand on its own.

Well, judging from the extraordinary meal we tasted on a cold Tuesday night, they’re doing just fine. From a bright refreshing pear salad doused with tangy sheep’s milk, crunchy sesame seeds, and sweet late harvest balasmic to a rustic pici pasta with a tomato-based pig trotter ragu, we got one winning dish after another.

Testa at THE PINES

But that testa was surprisingly magical. The housemade ┬áhead cheese wasn’t too firm with less gelatinous quality than other specimens. This plate featured the most delectable meat bits with lots of rich, meaty flavors. And the brilliant accompaniments brought the dish together. Big chunks of soft, sweet pumpkin bread soaked up the fat and played nicely with the acidity from pickled celery and tart huckleberries. It was a colorful, delicious masterpiece.

Maybe Chef Angelo Romano’s menu uses the Italian word “testa” to make it less scary for people to order, but once you get a bite of this head cheese, you won’t care what it’s called.

THE PINES
284 3rd Avenue (between Carroll and President Street),
Gowanus, Brooklyn
(718) 596-6560
thepinesbrooklyn.com
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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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