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corsino: ‘ino empire’s ‘ugly duckling’

Months ago, West Village neighborhood favorite ‘ino (on Bedford Street) got a little sister. Little only in age, corsino is actually much bigger and much more ambitious than it’s quaint panini-focused sibling. On a bustling corner where the West Village meets Meatpacking, corsino looks and sounds loud. With a long and sleek bar upfront, near the entrance, the restaurant always seems packed. Upon opening the door, you’re hit hard with the frenzied noise of a full house, overworked waiters, and the already tipsy bar crowd; each time someone new enters, peals of laughter and fast chatter spill out onto the street.

The utter lack of acoustical sound-proofing throughout the surprisingly large space ensures that no matter where you sit, either in the thick of it or towards the back, you’re guaranteed to get into a volume arms race with neighbors. You could either look at this as supremely irritating or merely indicative of how hoppin’ and vibrant corsino appears to be – if you’re looking for activity, guess what, I’ve found it.
Aside from the distracting noise level, corsino is actually a very attractive restaurant. With large floor-to-ceiling windows, several tables afford fantastic people-watching opportunities (it’s amazing what walks around the West Village sometimes). The vibe is trendy casual with industrial metal chairs, flashy red numbers painted on tables, a cool grey painted bar, all sorts of arts black-and-white photographs, and rustic wood-paneled walls. However, as these spots tend to go, the look was so well-executed that it comes off as more contrived than anything else – does a ‘cantina’ in Italy really look so brand new and perfectly put-together? I think not.
corsino focuses on Italian tapas – offering an extensive menu of shared plates, crostini, antipasti, and so forth. Expect 15 different crostini options at $2.50 a pop, extensive salumi and formaggi menus, petite antipasti dishes ranging from tripe soup to baked ricotta to pickles & olives, a variety of panini (naturally), and a surprising array of pastas and hot entrees. With such a diverse and prolific menu, it’s easy to not only over-order but also spend a fortune – be sure to keep tabs on how many of the delicious-sounding dishes you order!
Unfortunately, though the menu looks and sounds marvelous, the actual food served is inconsistent. It ranges from wildly scrumptious to completely unremarkable. For example, although the pea and pecorino crostini was fresh, savory, and crave-worthy, the basil pesto option was so oily it turned the bread soggy and inedible. The charred octopus and potatoes all’amatriciana was inspired with large and nicely grilled octopus tentacles amid a bath of garlicky tomato sauce and chunky potatoes, while the heritage brisket meatballs were unmemorable. Who wants to order bland meatballs in a restaurant when you just know that your grandmother can make ’em better? The panini was good, but not nearly as good as what you would expect from a team known for their panini. The ricotta, green tomato, and anchovy variety was flaky with warm chewy bread, yet it needed less anchovy and more ricotta; the overwhelming taste was fish fish fish – something that could’ve been tempered by a more generous helping of ricotta.

corsino is a hit-or-miss spot with a few notable upsides and some serious downsides. The location is fantastic, the concept hip and the decor sleek, yet the noise is a noticeable issue and the food is all over the place quality-wise. Moral of the story? Know what you’re getting yourself into. If you have sensitive ears or a picky palette, maybe Corsino isn’t the best choice for you.

Perfect For: after work drinks with colleagues, first dates, appetizers at the bar, daytime drinking bonanzas, charcuterie connoisseurs

Corsino on Urbanspoon
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