Locanda Verde: Hype Warranted.
Disclaimer: Please excuse the verbal diarrhea to follow. Locanda Verde has brought out the prose within.
Andrew Carmellini’s wildly popular Tribeca restaurant has had hype since opening two years ago. This is a very dangerous (though profitable) thing to have – it leads to gargantuan expectations, often failed. Yet, magically, the laidback and lively restaurant in the Greenwich Hotel lives up to the hype big time and on all counts. The food is confident, comfortable, and cozy; the service is friendly and professional; the airy and impeccably-designed space somehow manages to mute the cacophony to an acceptably vibrant chatter. Everything just…works.
The cavernous dining room transforms an industrial space into something warm and luxurious. Every last detail works to create an open and rich environment, from the matte terracotta tiled floors to the bright airy windows to the golden backlit bar that wraps around one wall to the heavy grey curtains, glossy dark wood finishes, and industrial lanterns. The large room with ceilings fit for a ballroom is sectioned into smaller areas, ensuring a more personal feel, and no table sits too close to another, mercifully. Towards the front, a small cafe and pasticceria waits for those craving sweet treats; an enormous chalkboard lists out the goodies available that day (zucchini bread, rhubarb and meyer lemon tarts, olive oil cake…). If you’re lucky (or patient) enough to snag an outdoor table, you’ll enjoy not only the peaceful ebb & flow of life in picturesque Tribeca but also some fantastic people-watching. Carmellini got Locanda Verde’s vibe just right: familial and welcoming, elegant, vivacious, youthful, comfortable, a go-to for just about any occasion.
As we all know, the look is only half the battle, and Carmellini’s Italian comfort food completes the picture perfectly. While not complicated or ‘haute’, the contemporary Italian cuisine is flavorful and soul-satisfying, hearty yet not over-done, accessible, and crave-worthy. Start with the Lamb Sliders, a house specialty served as a duo of zesty lamb meatballs in soft slider buns, and the Sheep’s Milk Ricotta crostini, charred Italian bread served plain with a generous bowl of salty, savory and creamy ricotta worth lapping up inelegantly. Move on to the “one of the top three best grilled octopus antipasti” dishes in Manhattan (courtesy of John Fang, octopus extraordinaire) laden with long not-too-chewy grilled tentacles atop an addictive saffron potato puree, punchy olives, and fresh spring vegetables. Looking for something on the lighter side? Stick with the Heirloom Tomatoes, tossed delicately with olive oil and bits of fluffy smoked ricotta.
While Locanda Verde offers some tantalizing secondi courses, including a remarkably pungent Fire-Grilled Garlic Chicken for two, the pastas are the real show here. The rigatoni with lamb bolognese, ricotta and mint is rich and savory, belly-warming, and nostalgic; the orrechiette with duck sausage and broccoli rabe is fresh and light, delicate, perfectly-cooked; the spaghetti with rock shrimp and toasted garlic is a sophisticated and addictive play on shrimp scampi, a must-have for seafood lovers; and the Grandmother’s Ravioli makes you yearn for home-cooking in the Italian countryside, featuring delicate shells stuffed full with pork, beef and lamb and slathered in a magic red sauce (a recipe worth killing over?). The only question worth asking is ‘how do I pick?’
Locanda Verde, much like it’s neighbor The Harrison, is a happy place: atmospheric, comfortable, delicious, warm, and welcoming. It’s the type of restaurant you’d be silly not to like, stupid not to try, especially if you’re a pasta fan. Carmellini brings an instant classic to the neighborhood – march on, Locanda Verde!
Perfect For: family get-togethers, happy hour with colleagues, client lunches, birthdays and special occasions, dessert dates, boisterous groups, ladies who lunch, wine nights