Mon-Fri, 6pm-11:30pm; Sat, 11am-3:30pm and 6pm-11:30pm; Sun, 11am-3:30pm and 6pm-10pm
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The old Isa was a revelation, a trapezoid-ceilinged enclave in far southwest Williamsburg serving some of most surprising fare in the city. Yet just as it started to garner buzz and gain a devoted following, chef Ignacio Mattos and his menu were out. The space hasn’t changed, but the standard seasonal-Italian bill of fare now on offer is a shadow of the old one. Still, thanks to a wisely applied wood-burning oven, this is one of the rare restaurants where main courses trump appetizers. The grilled pork chop is delightfully charred and juicy (even if its bed of polenta could double as wallpaper paste), so good you’ll find yourself slicing off every shred. A whole porgy is a treat, too, its tender white flesh given a delicate lemon and herb treatment. It’s too bad the calamari salad with black chickpeas is so stinting on the squid itself, and a grilled kale Caesar completely fresh yet nondescript. However, the biggest disappointments on a recent visit were house-made ricotta and fettuccine, two dishes any self-respecting osteria should nail. The ricotta had an oddly sticky cream-cheese texture; and the noodles topped with August tomatoes and lemon somehow managed to fall flat. Only in the playful cocktail list does Isa seem like her old self: Cantaloupe Island is an unlikely marriage of melon, white vermouth, brandy, and sesame—a little bit kooky yet completely delicious.