Scuderia: Da Silvano’s Rough and Rowdy Cousin
Da Silvano has a younger, spunkier, and quirkier cousin, and it’s just across the street. Scuderia, an Americanized and contemporary spin on the classic Italian trattoria, has a lot of attitude, for better or for worse.
The surprisingly expansive space on 6th Ave near Bedford features a perfect sidewalk patio in good weather and a bizarrely appointed part-bar part-restaurant interior. Flourescent orange design touches (chairs, lamps, neon) are unintentionally jarring for a supposedly relaxed trattoria – they remind me more of leftovers from a defunct ’70s Miami disco lounge. ‘Rustic’ farmers tables (including an imposing dark 8-ft long Chef’s Table) and rough-hewn chairs are mixed into the orange explosion, creating quite the dissonant design aesthetic. At the front is a rounded pale-wood bar (another completely different and bizarre look) with a few bottles of wine, Italian liquors, and dangling Ikea lamps.
The service matched the bizarre look with a quirky, pushy, and slightly skeezy maitre’d, rotating servers that spoke little to poor English, and even an interested bartender. The maitre’d saw us hesitating outside on the sidewalk, peering at the menu, and rushed out to pressure us to sit down; he brought the heat, and we felt compelled (read: forced with penalty of death) to sit down. The servers (there must have been at least 3) seemed confused on who should cover our table, often forgot our drink orders, and even forgot to bring a dessert (which we then decided to just pass on). Not exactly gold star service, if you ask me.
Aside from the quirky and disorienting decor and off-putting service, the food is actually pretty good. A less-refined and more comfortable version of Da Silvano’s dressy Tuscan fare, the menu at Scuderia presents a long laundry list of small plates, including a beautiful and tender venison carpaccio, savory meatballs, and a refreshing beets & goat cheese salad, non-traditional pizzas like foie gras with apples, a greatest hits compilation of popular pastas (lasagna bolognese, penne puttanesca, pappardelle al cinghale, and squid ink tagliolini), and a diverse set of secondi (think: braised beef short ribs, eggplant parmigiana, aged rib eye for two, and saltimbocca). In general, the grub’s well-executed and packed with flavor. Highlights are the venison carpaccio, the squid ink tagliolini, the beets & goat cheese salad, and the nutella & marscapone dessert pizza.
Scuderia seems to have a minor identity crisis brewing – there are DJ nights and a resident cartoonist in a relaxed faux rustic Italian trattoria – you don’t need to know flip about Italian ‘peasant’ dining to know that’s just not right. I say, if you’re a club, be a club flat-out; if you’re a trattoria, focus on the food and a warm atmosphere – don’t straddle the line and fail at both.
Perfect for: a dinner/drinks fiasco heavy on the drinks, ladies night out, outdoor dining without the wait