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Posts from the ‘italian’ Category

Rubirosa: A Classic Pizzeria with Nolita Flair

Considering how difficult it is to get a reservation at Rubirosa and how much buzz the restaurant has had since opening, I had expected the Nolita pizzeria to be unattainably fashionable and perhaps even a little snotty. Thus, what a surprise it was to discover instead a warm, convivial and family-friendly neighborhood establishment that appears to be rabidly popular with trendy young things, neighborhood families, traveling foodies, singles, and couples alike.

A cheery blood orange and crimson facade with a retro painted sign announce Rubirosa’s presence. The pizzeria’s space on a Mulberry Street block shared by Balaboosta, Eight Mile Creek, and Torrisi Italian Specialties is narrow and quirky. The front area is primarily a bar, where diners without reservations nosh at high-top tables and tame groups of revelers enjoy reasonably-priced bottles of wine and artfully-concocted house cocktails. Towards the back of the front room and in the tiny back room, normal tables held for those parties with reservations wait. Rubirosa channels a homespun rusticity popular amongst casual eateries these days in New York – striped wallpaper covers the walls in one nook; tables are made from hefty hewn dark wood; pails of fresh Gerber daisies sit on the bar; mismatched framed black-and-white photographs of Italian neighborhoods hang neatly on the dark grey walls; hanging lanterns with soft scalloped edges shed a warm glow over patrons. Though not necessarily unique these days, the look is charming, comfortable, and a bit more upscale than your typical New York pizzeria.

Though Rubirosa bills itself as a classic pizzeria, it offers a full Italian menu with antipasti, pastas, pizza, and secondi. The bruschetta are a great way to start a meal – and a great value at $3 each. My favorite is the Meatball – a soft and savory traditional meatball atop a large piece of crusty fresh-baked Italian bread and coated in warm tomato sauce and melted Parmesan. Other options include the earthy and nutty Mushroom variety and the rich Caramelized Onion with pieces of braised duck. For a pizzeria, the salad options are quite sophisticated – beets with goat cheese, an iceberg wedge with bacon and vodka blue cheese dressing, a warm mozzarella caprese. Classic antipasti follows – delicately fried calamari, arancini stuffed with prosciutto and gooey fontina, roasted octopus with tomato and potato, and of course, an Italian-American homage to eggplant parmesan.

The pastas are all made in-house and range from a succulent lasagna with sausage AND meatballs for two to a decadent hand-rolled manicotti, ricotta ravioli and a refreshing whole wheat fettucini with asparagus and zucchini. The ‘black-and-white’ tagliatelle is an embarrassment of riches – a squid ink pasta accompanied by clams, mussels, scallops, and shrimp; it’s briny, silky, and perfect for seafood-lovers. Of course, despite this spectacular array of food, Rubirosa is best known for its wondrous ultra thin-crust pizzas. The crust is wafer-thin, crispy at the crust, and slightly chewy at the center. The toppings are layered on, but not too thickly. The vodka pizza, a house speciality, is light and airy, best with a sprinkle of crushed red pepper and a tossing of shredded Parmesan.

Rubirosa is a wonderful neighborhood establishment – a refreshingly laid-back restaurant in a neighborhood known for high prices, high fashion, and “high horses.” The service is efficient and friendly, the food accessible and reasonably-priced (for Manhattan), and the atmosphere congenial. Sure, the food isn’t haute gourmet or even perfectly-executed, but what does that matter when you can slurp it down with a $30 bottle of house wine (quite the bargain, if you ask me)?

Perfect For: post-shopping pigouts, lowkey date nights, weeknight quick dinners for Nolita locals, thin crust pizza fanatics, wining and dining, noshing at the bar

Rubirosa on Urbanspoon

Ciano: Flatiron’s New Gold-Plated Italian

Ciano, a charming Italian restaurant, is a welcome addition to Flatiron’s extensive though tepid culinary scene, yet it lacks the finesse to make it a truly memorable dining experience. It must be tough to make it as an Italian restaurant in New York, given the vast amounts of competition in almost every discernible neighborhood. And while Ciano is well-run and serves good Italian cuisine, it can’t hold a candle to the truly soulful Italian fixins’ at Locanda Verde, the now defunct Convivio, Apizz, or even the far more casual West Village newbie Spasso. It just comes up a little bit short on personality.

The duplex space on East 22nd Street, just around the corner from the Flatiron building, is the epitome of faux rusticity. At first blush, it appears to be brimming with rustic charm; lush plants are just about everywhere you look, the furniture and floor are both made of warm wood, and remnants of countryside kitsch are found everywhere. However, when one looks a little closer, all this rusticity at Ciano is noticeably false; it doesn’t look real or believable with crisp white tablecloths, plants arranged into perfect neat bouquets, expensive modern light fixtures, and each design element so impeccably suited to another that it just comes off as matchy-matchy. Sure, it’s ‘elegant,’ but the half-way rustic vibe makes it seem like Ciano is trying to hard to be trendy. My advice? If you want to be a fine dining restaurant, don’t sell out to the rustic chic trend and confidently go hog-wild with formality.

The simple Italian food at Ciano is prepared by Chef Shea Gallante, the former chef at the much beloved and deceased Cru, and is generally very good. It’s technically excellent, based on fresh seasonal ingredients, and ‘the stuff you want to eat,’ but for whatever reason, it’s not so delicious or so exciting for it to be memorable. The menu is short, but not too short, with nine snacks and five or six each of appetizers, pastas, and entrees. Out of the snacks, the arancini are tasty – ideal little bites of fried cheesy rice. The chicken liver crostini is also good, though not remarkable. As starters go, the burrata di bufala is naturally scrumptious (it’s pretty difficult to mess up burrata), particularly when layered with the savory sweet onion jam and bitter and salty pesto on top of the charred thick slices of country bread. But, the burrata is $18, an astonishing number for a starter offered for less at the very pricey Hearth or Peasant.

The pastas are delicious – the best thing offered by Ciano as far as I can tell, both in terms of taste and of value. A ‘spring’ ravioli, stuffed with burrata and sweet peas, is earthy, bright, and buttery; for $15, it’s one of the best deals on the menu. The pappardelle is more substantial, heavier, and meatier with a duck bolognese dusted with hearty oregano; nutty pecorino shaved on top makes this dish fairly addictive. The saffron tagliatelle is luxurious with chunks of Dungeness crab, yet the strong flavor of saffron is a touch over-powering; a lighter hand would transform this dish into something marvelous. As entrees go, Ciano’s are fine. A steak is just a steak, and the lamb loin with lamb sausage is just a lamb loin. There is nothing so astonishing or memorable about either.

Everything at Ciano is neat, clean, refined, and ‘just so.’ Both the food and the atmosphere seem too precise for casual Italian dining, too sterile to incite exuberant passion. Dining at Ciano is ‘nice,’ but not wonderful or thrilling, not something to remember for weeks after or to leap at the chance to repeat. With such a respected pedigree (former Cru chef, former Cru sommelier, and former Per Se maitre’d), I had hoped Ciano would just be better than the ‘good’ it is. It’s just the place to take clients from out of town – the price point is right and the room is elegant enough to impress; but for those seeking romance or intimacy, something different, Ciano is not so special.

Perfect For: taking clients out, treating your parents, indulging in ricotta cheese, third or fourth dates, having a ‘mature’ dinner out

Ciano on Urbanspoon

Anfora: dell’anima’s Chic-er and Sleeker Sister

Even with all the bars and restaurants in New York, it’s often difficult to find a sophisticated hybrid of the two genres, where you can enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail with bites to eat in an informal environment. Anfora, the sister restaurant to West Village favorite dell’anima, is the type of bar/restaurant you want to go to on a first date, with enough buzz and hip factor to impress and enough legitimately good food and drink to make the high prices worthwhile.

Just a few doors down from dell’anima where 8th Avenue transforms into the infinitely more charming Hudson Avenue, Anfora is, in one word, sleek. The dark and slinky room is more lounge-y than most wine bars, with several low-lying couches and what I think of as ‘kiddie stools’ for people to perch on. The look is simple – exposed brick, fresh white walls, luxurious Earth tones, verdant plants here and there. No frou-frou decor to be found here. Though the rich leather couches may beckon after a long-day, the best seats are at the bar. Sitting at the bar, not only do you get to interact with the competent, knowledgeable, warm and exceedingly welcoming bartenders, but you also get much faster drink and food service.

Speaking of drink and food, Anfora is, in the first instance, a wine bar. And a very good one at that. I won’t pretend to know left from right about wine; however, the selection of both wines by the bottle and wines by the glass is vast and diverse. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Anfora though (or perhaps not so surprising if you’re a fan of dell’anima, which I was resoundingly not) is how wonderful the food generally is. The menu offers Italian-inspired small plates, charcuterie, cheese, and panini. The grilled cheese, made with gruyere, cheddar and onions, is thin, not greasy, and pleasingly cheesy; in fact, it’s better than that offered at Melt Shop, a Midtown East stand devoted entirely to grilled cheese sandwiches, and at the ‘cheese bar’ Casellula. The lamb ragu sliders are just plain ridiculous; served on a ciabatta roll with nutty and sharp pecorino, these little ‘burgers’ pack an incredibly flavorful punch.

The crostini are mostly delicious – the spicy chorizo with avocado, lime, chili and mint was my favorite. The flavor combination was surprising and unusual – not your average crostini! The ricotta crostini is also great, probably because it’s virtually impossible to make fluffy ricotta with sea salt taste bad. The tuna salad and curry egg salad crostini were both decent, if you like tuna and egg salad, but by no means a ‘must-order.’ Lastly, the chickpea romesco option is wonderful, nutty with chopped almonds and rich parmesan, zesty with piquillo peppers. Though the menu is limited, it’s well ‘curated’ and developed; the dishes offered don’t mess around flavor-wise and are the ideal small bites to complement your glass of Chianti or whatever was recommended that evening.

Anfora is a charming place – a snazzy West Village wine bar that’s not too cutesy on the one hand and not too trendy on the other. Although it can get busy on Thursday and Friday nights, the helpful staff does their best to find room for you and more often than not, waiting for 15 minutes yields a few seats here and there. The food is almost universally good – the type of yummy Italian that pairs wonderfully with wine – and the drinks are, of course, great. Just watch out – a few cocktails with a couple glasses of wine and some victuals here and there can add up quickly – Anfora is certainly not cheap!

Perfect For: first dates, oenophiles, after-work drinks

Anfora on Urbanspoon

Porsena: A Halfway Great Pasta Restaurant

Porsena, the second restaurant of Chef Sara Jenkins, best known for Porchetta, is a classic pasta-centric trattoria just off Cooper Square. It describes itself as “convivial” and reminiscent of “neighborhood dining rooms.” It’s gotten pretty rave reviews from NYMag, the New York Times, and food bloggers. However, when it comes down to it, Porsena really isn’t anything special on the New York dining scene. It’s hype is driven by the restaurant’s attachment to Jenkins, something of a cult figure amongst foodies, and by the current obsession with Italian comfort food consuming New York. Don’t get me wrong, Porsena is good. And so is Italian comfort food. But is all the hype elevating it to one of the better pasta spots in Manhattan warranted? No.

On 7th Street, near the Cooper Union, Porsena is small. A divided restaurant with a bar on one side of a dividing wall and a dining room on the other, the restaurant is angular and awkwardly-set up. Perhaps the strangest thing about Porsena though is that for a restaurant focused in neighborhood cooking and Italian comfort food, the restaurant itself isn’t particularly warm or welcoming. The warmest thing about it is the scarlet-hued walls, and other than a warm earth-tone color palette, the dining room is essentially unadorned. A few mismatched posters and photographs dot the walls, but they do not tell a cohesive story and instead seem haphazard. If Sara Jenkins’ point in decorating her restaurant simply is to simply keep things easy and focused on the food, that’s great. But it doesn’t mean the restaurant needs to look boring, chintzy, or unfinished. In terms of design, Porsena is unremarkable.

The food at Porsena is, surprise surprise, rustic Italian. Because Jenkins herself dubbed Porsena a ‘pasta restaurant,’ the menu is pasta-centric. However, as with any good Italian restaurant, there are several antipasti selections to kick off the meal. Particularly good is the baccala mantecato, a smoky and savory salt cod and potato spread served with crusty garlic toast. The dish is unusual and quirky, a surprising way to start dinner. Not so successful is the mozzarella crostini. Served as one immense slice of bread loaf, not only was the crostini clunky and difficult to eat but it was also topped with stringy and tough mozzarella. Not even the glorious layer of bottarga could save the crostini from itself.

The pastas are, admittedly, very good as pastas go. There are nine options, ranging from the classic pasta al ragu, maccheroncini with a deep meat ragu sauce to the more unusual penette con cavolfiore, cooked with roasted cauliflower, bread crumbs, olives and capers. The house risotto, a sweet corn variety recently, is texturally perfect and very creamy, yet it’s positively aching for more salt. The pasta special, involving a slow-cooked duck ragu on the night I stopped by, was cooked a perfect al dente and the ragu was packed with succulent duck meat, yet once again, the ragu was pining for more seasoning to really shine. While the pastas are hearty, satisfying, and served in pleasantly large portions for the price, the best thing I ate at Porsena was the lemon olive oil cake offered for dessert. The cake was moist and refreshing, and the generous dollop of lemon curd was just an explosion of fresh lemon flavor. Perfecto!

However, the food can’t save Porsena from itself, for the most irritating thing about this ‘neighborhood’ restaurant is the staff. The hostess is straight-up unorganized and incompetent. She loses track of parties and can’t manage turning tables. Even though our check was on the table, we were asked to please pay and leave because she was running behind and the next scheduled party had been waiting. Despite offering to buy us a glass of wine at the bar, this struck me as unacceptable. Further, our server was bizarre. Not only did he get preachy with me and my dining date about the ingredients in each pasta dish, but he also forgot that he had read us the specials and proceeded to launch into the whole spiel again; when I told him that we had already heard them, he stared me down like I was the rudest patron he’d ever had and said, “well fine.” Doesn’t seem very neighborly to me.

Porsena is a fine-enough option for East Village locals, but when it comes to good Italian food and good pasta, there are better options. Seek out: Apizz, Hearth, A Voce Columbus, Spasso, and even Osteria Morini.

Perfect For: wine dates, pasta fanatics, east village locals, dining at the bar

Porsena on Urbanspoon

Osteria Morini: A Bad Restaurant with Great Food

I’m going to cut to the chase: Michael White’s casual dining spot in Soho, Osteria Morini, is somewhat of a hot mess. Despite the generally excellent food that White is known for at his other restaurants (Marea, and the now defunct Alto and Convivio), there are so many flaws in the design of Morini and how the restaurant is run that it’s hard to truly love this place.

Located on the Soho triangle where Lafayette and Centre converge at Spring Street, Morini doesn’t look like much from the outside. Peering through the door, it looks leaden and dark, unfriendly. On the inside however, it’s aggressively rustic, to the point of seeming chintzy and faux. The tables are heavy and wooden, the sort of thing you’d see in the ‘Rustic Home’ section of a Raymour & Flanigan competitor; while aesthetically-pleasing, if you’re into the whole country kitchen look, they are ridiculously tall; thus, unless you’re a giant, the table is just too tall to eat at comfortably. Further, all of the dining chairs are supposed to be ‘ artfully mis-matched’ in shades of mint green, white and brown, yet the overall affect is a forced ‘countryside-in-Manhattan’ style that looks just plain matchy-matchy. The rest of the decor is typical farmhouse-chic: copper pots and antique cooking utensils, old photographs, wooden hutches displaying Italian kitsch, mini pots of fresh flowers on each table. Perhaps the most distracting thing about Osteria Morini though is the noise; it is unbelievably noisy, starting at a low hum early in the night and rapidly rising to a full-on roar by 7:30pm. Who designs a restaurant without taking into account the acoustics? Such excessive noise can really ruin a meal.

In fact, Osteria Morini was so loud that our waitress could not understand what we were ordering and had to repeat everything we said to verify she got it right. Perhaps the staff’s constant exposure to loud noises is the reason why they were borderline incompetent. Although our waitress was mostly friendly, both she and the bus boys rushed me and my friend Julie through our meal. Half way through every single course, we were asked whether we wanted our food cleared, even though it was clear that we were still eating. At one point, a bus boy tried to take away an as-of-yet untouched appetizer and when we said no, proceeded to snag my friend’s bowl of soup out from under her and clear her starter course silverware. She had to ask for it back to finish her food.

Part of me wishes I could just write Osteria Morini off the map for its obvious annoyances, yet unfortunately for me and fortunately for it, the food is actually quite wonderful. At Morini, Michael White demonstrates his facility with the cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, churning out soulful and hearty dishes without a whole lot of fuss. There are the requisite cured meats and cheeses, one of which, a special on the night I visited, was utterly marvelous: aged nutty Parmesan, served in thick nuggets with a slice of pickled pear, a dollop of poached date, and soft fruit & nut bread. The antipasti options are extensive: fluffy ricotta with spring peas and pesto, creamy duck liver mousse crostini, mozzarella di bufala with figs and saba, marinated olives, and so forth. Perhaps the best though is the house meatballs, a savory blend of mortadella and prosciutto, baked in a wonderfully thick, salty and flavorful tomato gravy (particularly good for sopping up with crusty bread).

Morini offers a number of entrees, such as roasted hampshire pork with sage, roasted baby chicken with brussels sprouts, or a sangiovese-braised short rib, but the ‘primi’ pastas are where the real magic is. My favorite? The Gramigna, a strange looking dish that tastes delightful. The maccheroni noodles are spinach green and egg yellow, shaped strangely like curly-cues, and cooked a sharp al dente. The best part though is the sauce, filled with chunks of tomatoes, pork sausage, and plenty of black pepper. The result is a comforting, colorful, and satisfying dish that I could eat every night if it didn’t put me back $17. Unfortunately the only missteps food-wise were at the end of the meal. Both desserts sampled, a couple of sorbets and the panna cotta, were just plain bad. Upon leaving, all I had lingering in my mouth was the cough-syrupy taste of a ‘strawberry’ sorbet that tasted suspiciously like a Jolly Rancher and the strange texture of the citrus panna cotta served in a cup. I couldn’t even taste the apricot sorbet, the flavor was so ‘subtle.’

Osteria Morini is the ultimate sort of disappointment – a restaurant with such potential and delicious food that is poorly run. It’s difficult to enjoy a meal when you’re rushed through it and constantly interrupted, when the noise level is borderline intolerable, and when the actual seating is uncomfortable. Not a single aspect was damning, but the combination of little irritations turned Osteria Morini into a restaurant I wouldn’t soon return to.

Perfect For: cocktail night, early in the night eats, pasta fanatics

Osteria Morini on Urbanspoon

Manzo at Eataly: Batali’s Italian Temple for Meat

In Italian, manzo means beef, so it’s no great surprise that Manzo is the ‘meats’ restaurant at Batali and Bastianich’s Flatiron Italian emporium Eataly. A part of the now-famous and unique Eataly set-up, where 12 petite restaurants each focus on a specific type of food, such as meat at Manzo, vegetables at Le Verdure, seafood at Il Pesce, and pastries at the Pasticceria, Manzo is the only of the individual eateries that a) has a more typical dining environment and b) takes reservations in advance (on OpenTable!).
Tucked into a corner and protected from milling crowds and photo-snapping tourists by actual walls, Manzo is more like a typical restaurant than the other Eataly ‘restaurants’ that are generally open to the massive marketplace. Here, with a hostess manning the entrance, tourists rarely wander past your table, staring voyeur-esque into your plate of food (a strangely common experience at the other eateries), and there are tablecloths, suited waiters, leather-bound menus, all the trappings of a proper dining establishment. Despite the bright and new market environment outside the half-high walls cordoning off Manzo, the look manages to maintain a sense of civility, lush and old-school with crimson leather, deep red walls, dark wood tables, and a suited-up staff. With so few tables, the bar is the best place to sit – no reservations necessary, comfortable, relatively spacious, and serviced by a competent and friendly staff. If you’re with a group though, be sure to make a reservation in advance, wait times stack up quickly, especially at peak hours.

The food at Manzo is beautiful – a blend of modern and traditional Italian cooking. It’s a refreshing departure from the ‘rustic’ Italian food that, while delicious and perfect for quick neighborhood meals, is colonizing Manhattan. The focus is, unsurprisingly, on meat, and while there are of course pasta dishes, appetizers, desserts and so forth, the kitchen really shines when its preparing meat. The antipasti options are spruced-up renditions of familiar favorites: asparagus and parmesan with earthy chanterelle mushrooms, light and crispy sweetbreads with mushrooms, shrimp with a chunky walnut pesto and broccoli rabe, and of course pillowy mozzarela di bufala, paired with savory strands of prosciutto. The warm calf’s tongue, one of the many offal dishes offered, is meaty in the best of ways, firm, salty, unbelievably rich, and complemented with mellow potatoes and leeks in a deep red Barbaresco sauce. Aside from the ‘traditional’ antipasti, there are a few selections that ‘celebrate’ Piemontese beef, the crowning joy of Manzo. These preparations are generally simple, meant to let the famously high-quality beef shine on it’s own. The carne sala is a particularly artful dish – a carpaccio-style cut of cured beef that’s both sweet and savory, a truly complex flavor unlike anything I’ve had before, served with fiddlehead ferns, which are unusual and herbacious, and tart shavings of apple.

As any good Italian restaurant does, of course Manzo offers ‘primi’ or pasta options – none of which include their beloved beef. The offerings are tantalizing to say the least – spaghetti with lobster, tomato and basil, agnolotti in a brown butter sauce, pappardelle with sausage, and an beautifully-made gnocchi in a spicy tomato sauce that on it’s own is pretty average yet is given a major lift by a generous dollop of fresh ricotta cheese. The ‘secondi’ dishes are where the kitchen really seems to get excited. For carnivores, the options read like poetry: a classic ribeye with potatoes, grilled calf’s liver with sweet onions, roasted pork with rhubarb, sugar snap peas, cabbage and honey vinegar, veal chop that’s been smoked in hay and has a sweet aroma. The list goes on and on, each dish just as succulent as the next. My recommendation? The simple and utterly wonderful tagliata – grilled sliced beef – that’s served a deep pink with fava beans, mushrooms, and a complex bone marrow sauce; it’s well-balanced and tastes like a million bucks.

If you haven’t guessed yet, none of this stuff comes cheap. Manzo is expensive, very expensive – antipasti range from $13-18 each, pastas top out at $29 a plate, and the ‘secondi’ can reach the staggering heights of $45 for a veal chop or a ribeye. Do the math – it adds up quick, especially if you’re in the mood for one of the bar’s killer Negronis. Regardless, if you’re willing to spend the dough freely, Manzo is an experience, blending the magic of meticulously created and prepared Italian cuisine with the unique opportunity of leaving the restaurant, only to shop for the ingredients you just ate. For some people, it’s an unnecessary extravagance, but for those passionate about eating, cooking or both, there’s a certain wonder to it.

Perfect For: wow-ing out-of-towners, Batali groupies, Italian food aficionados, those who like to cook as much as they like to eat, special occasions, the ultimate meat experience, cocktails and dolce, being luxurious

Manzo on Urbanspoon

Apizz: Ending the Quest for Manhattan’s Perfect Date Spot

I’ve heard good things about Apizz on the Lower East Side, pretty much since I started paying attention to restaurants in New York. And, as I discovered this weekend, all the buzz is for good reason. The sister restaurant to ricotta-lovers’ favorite Peasant in Nolita and to nearby The Orchard, Apizz has a familiar look and feel to the others in its family, though, without question, it’s just plain betterthan its siblings.

Tucked away on a quiet block of Eldridge Street and thus removed from the drunken hipster disaster that is the Lower East Side after 9pm, Apizz is a charming find. Small and intimate, Apizz just about oozes an all-encompassing coziness. The mood is set by the seemingly signature low amber-orange glow of Apizz, Peasant, and The Orchard. It’s virtually impossible for someone to look unattractive in such universally flattering light (though, naturally, I can’t promise the world here…). The look is rustic, with a tiny open kitchen, pulsing from the heat of the pizza oven, a verifiable explosion of exposed brick everywhere, bottles of house wine perching on the hanging industrial ducts, simple wooden tables, and so forth. Chances are, if you live and ever eat out in New York, you’re familiar with this cozy and charming rusticity that’s all the rage right now. In the back is a miniature bar area, competently-manned and a pleasant place to enjoy one of the fairly delicious house cocktails or perhaps a quick bite to eat if you can’t get one of the coveted tables.

The food is straight-up Italian, without frills or anything nouveau, and it’s delicious. Think: a crispy and simple margherita pizza, classic antipasti with bresaola, mortadella, roasted peppers, and buffalo mozzarella, among other things, roasted and marinated mushrooms over plenta, a traditional polpo (octopus) salad, and perhaps, best of all, a marvelous dish of tender butterflied shrimp and chorizo in hot bubbling herb-infused olive oil. And those are just a few of the starters. The kitchen is known for their meatballs, and its tennis ball-sized variety is very good. A combination of veal, pork and beef, they are satisfyingly meaty and savory; a generous dollop of creamy, fluffy, decadent ricotta is worth the price of the dish itselfl and the ‘tomato gravy,’ a thick pomodoro-style sauce that tastes like its been brewing for a luxuriously long time, is just heavenly – the sort of thing you’d expect from an Italian grandmother’s kitchen in the homeland itself.
If you make your way to Apizz, you must sample one of the homemade pastas for their bold, homey, and nostalgic flavors. It’s virtually impossible to choose from housemade gnocchi in a tomato ragu with braised short ribs, lasagna made with wild boar and parmesan, a mushroom risotto with creamy mascarpone and fresh herbs. The fazzoletti, a hand-torn pasta variety, is remarkable and unique with lumps of fresh crab meat doused in an addictive creamy tomato-basil sauce that’s so good I wanted to lick my boyfriend’s plate while he was in the restroom. And of course, after you’ve stuffed your belly full of traditional Italian pastas and antipasti, it would be sacrilegious not to finish off the meal with one of Apizz’s classic New York Italian desserts: cheesecake, apple crumble, a dark chocolate torte, tartufo, and of course, spumoni. *NOTE: if you want to obsess over a dessert for about a week, treat yourself to the chocolate torta. You will not regret it, even if you need to unbutton your pants for the rest of the meal.*
If you can snag a reservation or weedle your way into the bar, Apizz is pretty much just plain awesome. It’s the perfect combination of hip dining, fantastic food, romance, and the comforts of a neighborhood spot; it’s hard to imagine going wrong at Apizz. And while there may be a few service snags here and there (the host when I stopped by was a little bit … difficult), it’s virtually impossible not to forget them when you’re being plied with such delicious food, affordable wine, and boozalicious cocktails. Yup, I’m pretty much obsessed.
Perfect For: any and all date nights, eats at the bar with a friend, romancing, Italian food connoisseurs, meatball mavens, LES locals

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