New York

Diners feasting on pasta at Lilia.
Lilia first opened in 2016, and six years later, it’s still tough to get a table at the Williamsburg staple for handmade pastas. Photo by Mike Grippi for Resy

The One Who Keeps the BookNew York

How to Get Into Lilia

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Ask any New Yorker which restaurant they’ve always wanted to go to but have struggled to get a reservation for, and it’s likely that Lilia will come up.

Since Lilia opened its doors in 2016, diners have been clamoring for a table at the award-winning restaurant helmed by chef-owner Missy Robbins. Despite Robbins opening her second restaurant, Misi, just a stone’s throw away in 2018, scoring a table at this Williamsburg auto-garage-turned-pasta-sensation still feels nearly impossible, even six years later.

The good news? In this installment of The One Who Keeps The Books, we talked to Lilia’s general manager, Alicia Blegen, to answer the most important questions about how to snag a table and what to order once you’ve scored that highly coveted Resy.

Alicia Blegen, Lilia's general manager
Alicia Blegen. Photo courtesy of Lilia

Resy: How many seats are there at Lilia?

Blegen: 160 on a sunny day.

When do reservations drop on Resy?

They drop 30 days in advance at midnight, but what you see on Resy is what is left over after we take the calls for the day. The calls start at 10 a.m.

How quickly do seats get booked out?

They do book up pretty quickly, often within hours if we are booking for a weekend day.

Are any of the seats in the restaurant held for walk-ins?

Yes! We save the bar and some patio tables for walk-in guests.

What time would you recommend stopping by to snag one of the walk-in seats?

The best way to snag a walk-in spot is to come in right at 4 p.m. when we open. Guests are welcome to put their names down for a later slot at the bar or on the patio so the closer to 4 p.m. you get here, the more options you will have.

During peak time, what is the typical wait time for a walk-in?

The walk-in spots tend to fill up quickly after 4 p.m., but the wait times vary anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours.

When are your busiest nights?

Every night is similar, but we get the most walk-in guests on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Can guests have a cocktail while they wait for their table?

They can, though our waiting area is limited. With the warmer weather, guests can enjoy a cocktail outdoors.

The best way to snag a table is to give us a call between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. A reservationist is here every day to answer any questions and make reservations.

What is your prime time for dinner reservations?

Between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

How many covers do you do on your busiest night?

During the height of patio season, between 300 and 350 covers.

When is Lilia least and most busy?

The least busy is 4 p.m. on weekdays other than Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The busiest is between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., any day of the week.

How long is your Notify list on average?

Today, there are 1,257 guests on the Notify list and that is pretty typical.

If someone were to set a Notify for Lilia on Resy, is there a certain day or time they’d be most likely to get a reservation?

Most likely the day of the reservation, around 2 p.m.

Are there any other tips or tricks you have for getting a table?

The best way to snag a table is to give us a call between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. A reservationist is here every day to answer any questions and make reservations. We only have one phone line, so if you don’t get through the first time, please leave a message and we will call you back as soon as we can.

For spontaneous diners, we recommend arriving at 4 p.m. and putting your name on the list for a later walk-in table.

Of all the places to sit in the restaurant, what do you think is the best seat in the house?

I love the end of the bar next to the grill. The kitchen team works so seamlessly and beautifully; it is so fun to watch.

Can people request specific tables?

If guests request a specific table, we will do our best to accommodate the request, but it is not always possible.

A Closer Look at Lilia

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Chef Missy Robbins surrounded by her team at Lilia.

Photo by Meredith Jenks for Resy

Chefs on the line at Lilia

Chefs on the line at Lilia.

Photo by Rachael Lombardy, courtesy of Lilia

The outdoor seating area at Lilia

Outdoor seating has helped make it a bit easier to score a Resy at Lilia these days.

Photo by Rachael Lombardy, courtesy of Lilia

Lilia's clams

Lilia’s clams, topped with breadcrumbs, are a favorite.

Photo by Rachael Lombardy, courtesy of Lilia

Preparing the restaurant’s signature mafaldini.

Photo by Rachael Lombardy, courtesy of Lilia

The mafaldini is topped with pink peppercorns.

Photo by Rachael Lombardy, courtesy of Lilia

Lilia’s grilled artichoke.

Photo by Rachael Lombardy, courtesy of Lilia

Lilia’s cacio e pepe fritelle.

Photo by Rachael Lombardy, courtesy of Lilia

The Italian Job dessert.

Photo by Rachael Lombardy, courtesy of Lilia

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It’s Friday night at 7 p.m. Can you set the scene for us?

The lights are dim but the energy is bright and bustling. Almost every table is seated or getting ready to be seated. You walk in and are greeted by a smiling host and an 80’s pop ballad playing over the sound system. Maybe you arrive a bit early, so you order an Aperol spritz from our somm and sit on a bench out front. When you are seated, there is a lot to look at — the windows share as much real estate as the walls, the wine shelves are full of intentionally selected bottles, the tables are full of intentionally prepared dishes housed in intentionally created bowls. The hospitality is professional and warm, and it was worth the 30-day wait!

What kind of music is played inside the restaurant?

Our playlists are eclectic and upbeat — a reflection of our team!

What would you say is the best time to visit?

Any time is magic, but the golden hour, when the agnolotti-hued light streams through the windows, that’s my favorite.

For someone going to Lilia for the first time, what should they order?

My go to is the focaccia, scallops or clams, spaghetti, mafaldini, bass, and the Italian Job (soft-serve vanilla gelato with honey, olive oil, sea salt, and fennel pollen).

Do you have a personal favorite dish and drink?

Our somms are happy to share whatever they are excited about and they know my taste. But an Aperol spritz is classic. Food-wise, it’s the housemade mozzarella for me.

What would you say differentiates chef Missy’s approach to Italian cooking in a city where there are many Italian restaurants?

When I tasted chef’s food during the opening in 2016, I was moved by the care and intention that went into every dish. They tasted like poems: nothing extra, every component necessary and thoughtful. It has informed our approach to service.

 

Lilia Caffé is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, and Lilia Ristorante is open for dinner every day from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

 

Samantha Schwab is a chef and freelance food photographer. Follow her on Instagram. Follow Resy, too.