It was fun to step outtathekitchen and into some new eating establishments during my latest visit to NYC.
While the food was quite enjoyable, the company trumped the cuisine in most cases.
Check out the following accessible restaurants…
I looked forward to dining out with my friends who were in town for Westminster at a touristy and mutually convenient Italian restaurant on the west side in mid-town Manhattan. Trattoria Dell’Artesomehow manages to attract diners with an enormous plaster nose in the window facing Seventh Avenue. Eeewww. The art inside the restaurant isn’t any better– gigantic sculptures of lips and enormous canvases with facial, torso, and limb closeups, awkwardly sketched in red pastel a la Da Vinci. Yeah. The meal, though only slightly above average, was a worthy adventure, for the most part.
When entering Trattoria Dell’Arte, be prepared. You will be overwhelmed with smarmy, over-dressed hosts and hostesses. I had three– the maitre d’, the floor drone, and the hatcheck girl. They got the name wrong in the reservation,which caused momentary confusion, but I was seated promptly at a table for two to await my two friends. Huh? I adjoined the neighboring table together with mine since the host who seated me did not do so.
Our waiter was a lively, stand up comedic type, hyping each dish as his “absolute favorite.” His loud and zealous rap was appreciated since the joint was jumping with the pre-theater crowd. We could hardly hear ourselves think.
For starters, we assembled a build-your-own antipasto plate of a few vegetables, meat, and a seafood. Very nice. I had already scoped out some of the antipasto choices when I arrived in the front of the house, and I briefly contemplated just going for the antipasto bar for my main meal, but I was just too hungry.
For entreés, two of us ordered the Fennel Sausage Pasta with curly gramigna pasta, tomato, and pecorino cheese. The pasta, a kind of half-cavatappi (corkscrew) was freshly made on the premises. This artisanal sausage featured a nicely balanced rosemary and garlic flavor which combined well with the sweet fennel notes in the light marinara sauce. The pasta was cooked a bit beyond al dente, but not at all mushy. Another dining partner ordered a chicken parmesan– a flattened boneless and skinless leg, breaded, lightly fried and topped with excellent parmesan cheese. Not pretty to look at as it resembled something that had been run over by a truck, complete with protruding leg bone– but the meat was moist, the breading crunchy, and it was neither greasy nor over-sauced. Everybody was happy with their main dish, sharing generously with each other. The wine lubricated the fun.
Fennel Sausage Pasta with Grimagna and Pecorino Cheese
During the meal, our colorful waiter kept marching by with various over-sized desserts. He started to push the cannoli as his hands-down favorite dessert that he always ordered as it was the best he ever ate. Dessert was definitely on our radar after all that salesmanship, and we went for the chocolate mousse, tiramisu, and lemon tart. However, he brought a cannoli instead by mistake. When we asked him to exchange it, he generously suggested that we keep it and he would bring the third dessert right along. It never arrived. So we dug into the cannoli and not reluctantly since we thought we had just scored a bonus dessert. Then we understood why he must have dumped it on our table. It was truly inedible– the shells were tasteless pizelle with the consistency of wet paper, the ricotta inside had turned and seemed totally devoid of sugar or marscapone, and the blueberry slop on the side was incongruous and tart on the tongue. Bleah. They must have been out of the tiramisu. The chocolate mousse was excellent, and the lemon tart got a B-, but the foul cream on the side was over-whipped nearing the consistency and taste of butter. Very disappointing.
Two Desserts to Avoid at Trattoria Dell’Arte: Soggy Cannoli and Lemon Tart with Side of Whipped Cream
Overall, the allegria and raucous guffaws from the large tables around us made the dining experience a somewhat wild ride, but it was more fun than annoying. Prices were a little high (Menu Trattoria Dell’Arte) and not unexpected; the quality of the fare was below par. I still can’t decide if the service was good or not. Everyone was plenty attentive, but I can’t help but wonder if a little benign neglect would have been preferable.
There is lots to chose from on the menu, but I would recommend going for an informal lunch and trying the antipasto bar with some excellent bread, cheese, and wine.