PROSPECT HEIGHTS – LaLou, Prospect Heights’ newest natural wine bar, opened to a line last Thursday for their soft opening weekend. They will take reservations starting this Tuesday, July 2.
“[The opening] went so well. It was busier than we thought, actually,” partner Joe Campanale told Bklyner over the phone. “It was really surprising, we didn’t take any reservations so it was just whoever would show up and we had a line out the door before we opened, which was great.”
The space has been on Campanale’s and partner Dave Foss’ minds for a long time.
The pair worked together at Greenwich Village wine spot Anfora from 2011 to 2016, and knew they wanted to open a wine bar in Brooklyn. The road was not a smooth one. Their original lease for the space fell through after a year and a half, after a landlord stopped construction.
“You know the expression ‘hurry up and wait’? We had sort of the opposite experience here, it was more like wait and then hurry up,” Campanale said. “We signed that lease on March 15th. So we did it pretty quickly after we signed the lease, but this project has been a long time in the making and something that we’ve been talking about for a while and excited about for a while. We really just wanted to create a great space for our neighbors to come in and drink a high quality glass of artisan made wine and have a beautifully produced plate of food as well.”
Campanale is a resident of Prospect Heights himself, and also owns and operates local favorite, Fausto.
“I love Prospect Heights. I love our neighbors in Prospect Heights who keep on telling me that they want more options for eating and drinking in the neighborhood. They love the restaurants that are currently here, but they want more, which is great. I think everyone wants to support the neighborhood,” he said.
Executive Chef and other business partner Ashley Rath, who earned a three star Times review for her work at The Grill, was given the opportunity to be creative with the menu, says Campanale.
“Ashley is such a talented chef that her creations [are] based on her experiences and creativity. Also the menu is very market driven, so it’s sort of a combination of Ashley’s creativity, experience, wine friendliness and what’s available, what’s good at the market,” he said.
The dishes include fried olives, which Campanale calls a “little addictive,” a hanger steak, potato dumplings, and zucchini escabeche.
While they do have a full liquor license, LaLou is primarily focused on wines. In particular, natural, biodynamic, and organic wines.
“I think that the decision to serve natural wine was one that we’ve always believed in and I think really goes along with what we’re doing,” Campanale said. “I really started getting interested in wine and this style while I was getting my masters degree in food studies at NYU and learning more about industrial agriculture and how harmful it can be. The intersection of organic and natural wines and my interest in artisan agriculture really were able to interplay nicely in the list here.”
The list, which is of course, substantial, offers fifteen by the glass, and countless more by the bottle. It includes selections of orange wines, petillant naturels, and many others.
The space, designed in part by Creative Director and partner Ilyssa Satter, with help from builders at American Construction League, can seat 50 inside. Fifteen of those seats are at the bar and two overlook a counter directly adjacent to the kitchen. LaLou also has a back garden, with room for about 18 people, that will open to the public on Tuesday.
“I think the beauty of the space is that you can feel equally as comfortable just coming in for a glass of wine, or sitting down for a full dinner. We feel we’re really happy to have people in to sort of use it as they most feel comfortable,” Campanale said.
LaLou is located in the former Tygershark space at 581 Vanderbilt Avenue between Pacific and Dean streets in Prospect Heights. They are currently operating under limited hours, open Sunday to Thursday from 5pm-11pm, and Friday and Saturday from 5pm-12am. They are closed Mondays, as well as this Thursday, July 4th.
This post was updated on July 3rd, 2019, to reflect an updated number of wines by the glass.