Let me tell you something about Italian food in New York. If you want to eat decent, if you want to eat authentic, if you want to experience the ultimate highlight in taste, then avoid Little Italy! At least the one in Manhattan. Disregard those tourist tips you find in New York in your Pocket or NFT (Not For Tourists). This is a simple rule and easy to follow.
Last week my friend took me out to the West Village. Now the West Village can have some really awesome food, as I already told you about Diablo Royale (go here to read post). The Italian counterpart to this tasty delight would be a hidden gem called L’Artusi – a restaurant with top-notch service and absolutely unique creations.
We dropped by on Wednesday, just us two people, no reservation, just popping in after a long day at work. My friend had already warned me that this place tends to attract the snobbish, rich upper-class of the Hamptons. And, fair enough, I didn’t see too many representable New Yorkers in this joint. More of the thoroughly dressed, over-styled, perfectly trimmed-and-manicured-nails kind of crowd. So in short, the crowd was too much for New York and easily recognizable as the Hampton people. However, they can have taste, these Hampton folks. And L’Artusi is surely going to challenge your taste buds, even if you don’t believe it. At first we started out with a nice glass of a 2006 Savuto. We then went ahead and ordered a roasted beets appetizer and a side dish of brussels sprouts to start with. Our main entrees consisted both of pasta, but in different variations: I chose filled pockets of tortellini with squash while my friend took the special of the
day evening, which was truffle fettuccine.
Despite us having to wait a teeny bit too long for our food (I think at least ten minutes too much for my taste), the food was absolutely stunning. And to give L’Artusi some credit, the restaurant was crowded at this point in time. They have an open cooking area in the back of the restaurant, in case you really want to see how your meal is prepared.
So my favorite part about the appetizer was the brussels sprouts dish. Crisply cooked in a garlic-sauce, peppered up with pecorino cheese on top. The main dishes were equally appealing: My squash in the pasta pockets melted in my mouth! And the dessert, a tiramisu, which we shared, was the right roundup for both of us after a culinary feast like this! It had just the right level of sweetness and was freshly made, convincing us both that it had indeed been the best option of the night. So don’t let the small dishes fool you, you can feel full after those in no time.
The prices might be a bit steep, with 16 to 28 dollars just for an entree (which is actually not too bad for Manhattan). You could use this restaurant for a special treat for yourself or an anniversary dinner. Unless you come from the Hamptons, then you can snag in your brunch here before heading off to Gucci and Versace.
Eating Italian in Manhattan – this had been indeed the first restaurant I liked. Back in May a friend and I had tried out Little Italy in Brooklyn – and yes, it does exist. Maybe a bit remote from the rest of the crowd, as we took the D train to the 18th Ave Station and walked a good 20 minutes to the Tommaso Ristorante. Or rather some creepy 20 minutes past some deserted industrial area until we found those four restaurants that make out Brooklyn’s Little Italy (right next to their Chinatown). Here we ordered a prix fixe for 25 bucks each (even in the evening hours), which included an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. All of these were very tasty! Starting out with some mussels in white sauce and mozarella with roasted peppers. Compared to restaurants in the City, the dishes are significantly bigger in Brooklyn! Then a fine-spiced Filet of Sole Francese with a meat dish combined with some of the best roasted potatoes I have ever come across. Dessert consisted of Italian Cheesecake and Panna Cotta. And don’t ask me how we both finished our dishes, but I assume we were quite stuffed when we exited the ristorante!
I will explain why I don’t think too highly of insider tips given in tourist guides for New York. One I had tried out was the infamous Totonno in Coney Island. When we walked in, the place had the feel of a fast-food joint rather than a notorious pizzeria. The waitress was indeed the same person displayed on the cover of the fancy magazine 10 years ago, but now significantly older and even with a hump. That’s right, a hunched back! So whatever photo-editing devices these glamour mags use, I’ve seen living proof of that they must be severe! Before eating my friend and I wanted to wash our hands so we each took turns to squeeze into the
little booth Totonno calls a restroom . We disregarded the dirt on the floor and the hair in the sink because we both weren’t in the mood to puke. We then ordered a simple cheese pizza topped with some basic ingredients such as mushrooms and peppers. Even though we were both starving we both weren’t too impressed by its taste! Best pizza of Brooklyn – pah! Maybe best overpriced pizza of Brooklyn!
Grimaldi’s Pizza right in Dumbo always has a queue waiting outside that reaches around a few blocks. I wonder why. After experiencing Totonno, I doubt their pizza is any better. And the best thing about it: The last time I checked they had a sanitary “C” grade, which is about as bad as it gets in New York. After seeing this red flag I definitely did not feel in the mood to try them out.
Now, there is hope! There is a location in Bushwick called Roberta’s which has gained increasing popularity not even among the locals anymore. I have yet to try out their delicacies to give you an authentic food update on them. However, my friend, who happens to share my taste, has let me know that not only their pizza but also their pastries are supposed to be a tongue-tingling experience… If you get there before I do, let me know!