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L’Artusi: dell’anima’s Little Sister Shows Who’s On Top

I came to L’Artusi with low expectations and mixed reviews. Yeah, the menu looks great, but when one of your good friends and frequent dining companions says it’s way-overrated, that’s going to taint things. Well, L’Artusi showed up tonight big and in great style. Every element of my gluttonous multi-course meal exhibited skill, creativity, and immense talent.

On West 10th Street, just west of Bleecker, L’Artusi looks small and shabby from outside, with just a quirky navy and white awning announcing it’s presence. Magically though, L’Artusi expands into an elegant and spacious multi-level restaurant, just like Alice crawling through the shrunken door to find Wonderland. At the front is a plush bar room, all velvety blue and grey, with multiple stools at the marble bar and a long coral-and-white canvas banquette with tables for two and four. Towards the back is an expansive open kitchen with a 10-seat chef’s bar for those interested in watching Chef Gabriel Thompson’s staff work magic. Up a crisp white staircase is a private dining room cum wine cellar with room for 16 and a mezzanine seating area open for cocktail soirees and overflow tables during peak hours. Sophisticated and contemporary, L’Artusi’s look is vaguely nautical with navy, white, coral and yellow tones complementing each other throughout the space.
At this far superior sister restaurant to nearby dell’anima, contemporary Italian food shines brightly. The ricotta cheese special, served with sweet strawberries and crusty slices of baguette, is creamy and flavorful, salty and savory, the type of simple dish you want to lick your fingers after to get every morsel. Lantern Bay scallops crudo and fluke ceviche are raw magic, the scallops served diced with rich bits of uni, zesty lemon, and olio verde and the fluke cut like tangerine slices and coated in citrus juice whose acid enhanced the mild flavor of the fish.
L’Artusi’s grilled octopus and crispy veal sweetbreads prove that Italian food isn’t just about pasta and crostini. The octopus, charred and beautifully grilled through, came prepared with salted potatoes, crispy bits of pancetta and chilis – an artful blend of fresh clean ocean flavors and savory meat & potatoes simplicity; the crispy veal sweetbreads came perfectly-fried and crusty, so smooth and innocuous they tasted almost like chicken. The cavatelli pasta, showered in a spicy lamb sausage bolognese, was the meal’s zenith; cooked to the ideal al dente texture, the gnocchi-like pasta with rolled edges had the sweetness of lamb meat, the freshness of a well-made tomato sauce, and the savory notes of garlic and sausage.
Got a sweet tooth? L’Artusi’s dessert menu is sure to tantalize with everything from gelati to a bittersweet chocolate budino with chocolate-honey crisp to a classic poached pear dish with caramel sauce and a pecan streusel. While desserts like the brown butter raspberry tart pack bold and bright flavors into a flaky and heart attack-worthy crust, the olive oil cake is your best bet: light, airy, moist, slightly sweet, and served with a refreshing creme fraiche mousse.
L’Artusi is, surprisingly, a foodie’s wet dream. It is chic and sophisticated, contemporary, staffed by laidback yet professional servers, and the type of sleek spot you’d only find in New York. The soulful yet modern riffs on Italian food are cooked with passion and precision; the food has heart and you can taste it in the quality of the ingredients used, the precise preparation, and the generous seasoning of the dishes. The verdict’s out: L’Artusi more than shows up its older sister, dell’anima, on pretty much every count.
Perfect For: date night, ladies night out, wine-fueled catch-up sessions, dining at the bar, impressing clients, blowing your bonus, celebrating your anniversary, feasting with foodies

L'Artusi on Urbanspoon

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