A Study in Unfortunate Italian Mediocrity
Last night, my friend Stephen and I were strolling around the West Village, looking for a place to settle down for an inexpensive and relaxed meal. We stumbled upon La Focaccia, a breezy traditional Italian joint on the corner of W.4th and Bank St. They had the perfect table for two – perched on the corner of the sidewalk, open to the warm summer breeze, slightly removed from other tables. We naturally jumped at the rare opportunity to get a prime outdoor table on a warm August evening.
Unfortunately, while the setting was ideal, the food was just entirely mediocre. I can’t quite tell if I just selected dishes poorly or if the kitchen was just not particularly good at churning out traditional Italian plates. I ordered the Mozzarella Affumicata and the Gnocchi in Butter & Sage. Both dishes were not very good. The smoked mozzarella came in huge unwieldy chunks and was strangely chewy. It tasted pretty cheap. Arranged on top of the mozzarella were large cuts of prosciutto that were flaky and hard. My gnocchi was pretty terrible. The butter & sage sauce was heavy and overpowering, while the gnocchi itself was the size of my thumb, doughy and dense, and straight out of a frozen package.
My dining companion ordered the arugula salad, which was tasty (pretty difficult to screw those up…) and had a lovely balsamic dressing. He also had the Fish of the Day special, a rainbow trout with couscous. I found the entire dish under-seasoned and dry. It needed some more oomph – just a touch of salt could have done the trick.
The atmosphere and service were very pleasant despite the boring and poorly executed food. The restaurant is charming and well-settled into a west village corner space with large windows that open to the street. The service, while it tapered off at the end, was efficient and very quiet. I never felt bothered by our laidback waiter.
I don’t want to say this place was terrible, because it was very suitable for a quick and laidback meal. However, don’t expect the kitchen to jump through gastronomic hoops. Stick with the simple stuff: bruschetta, grilled chicken, spaghetti, caprese, arugula.