Brace yourselves--this is going to be glowing.
I'd been to Scarpetta once in early winter and had adored it; went back for my birthday last Tuesday, hoping that it would be as good as I had remembered it, and it was better. Most really good meals I've had tend to be so on average--it's pretty rare for me to feel that literally every bite from the second I sit down at a restaurant is exactly what I wanted it to be in that moment, but this was it---and I got it by not necessarily ordering what I would normally be drawn to order, but by trusting the advice of the server and just going for it. The stats--two people, one antipasti, two pastas, two mains, a dessert and a bottle of wine--and the dinner was less than $250 with tax, pre-tip. In these "difficult economic times", yeah, that's expensive. For what I got, I felt like it was a steal.
First, don't eat before you go, because you should actually leave room for the bread here--the lard bread, particularly, with lashings of fresh butter and roasted red stuff. Then, no matter what else you get, get an order of the polenta with mushroom fricassee for the table, then just eat it throughout the meal. Although possibly the simplest thing on the menu, I think it's the best. The kind of thing that one day, when I'm curled up in bed after something horrible has happened and don't want to face the world, I hope someone brings me a bowl of that polenta in bed to fix me.
Primi--my husband ordered the short ribs and risotto--I'd read a recent review here that suggested that the ratio of ribs to risotto was off (too much risotto), but we thought it was very balanced--a bit surprising because it's something you'd almost expect to be a secondi, and worry will be too heavy before actually ordering a main. I can see that it might be if, again, you don't come in with a perfectly empty stomach, but it's just pure comfort food and wonderful. The first time I'd been, I'd had the foie gras ravioli (delicious and decadent), but had salivated over my friend's spaghetti tomato basil. In response to another recent review here that noted that the portion size was small, I have to note that this was not my experience. Though, yes, somewhat aggressively priced, I was served a very generous bowl of pasta that, had I not been on a mission to basically gorge my way through the menu, would have been a perfectly reasonable dinner entree portion. You could do a whole lot worse than stopping in even for a non-special event dinner and getting this pasta and a glass of wine for $35-40--I could have left happy. But then again, I was on a mission.
Secondi--husband ordered the veal rounds with butternut squash stuff. I didn't know what "capretto" was, but the server explained that it's some Conant specialty of braised young goat. I am not a goat fan, my experience with goat consisting mainly of old, tough goat meat nastiness, but I went for it, and it was awesome. Extremely tender, it tasted like nothing I expected. It's served with rapini (which I feared would be bitter, but wasn't) and fingerlings (which I expected to be bland and a waste of space, like a lot of fingerlings, but which were finely chopped and fried and smothered in delicious delicious goat juice). Throw in what was left of the polenta, and I was pretty literally swooning in my seat from happiness.
Finished off with the banana budino (kind of like a cross between caramel soaked banana bread and banana bread pudding) with some kind of toasty tasting ice cream and stumbled out into the night, wishing I could just rewind a few hours and do the whole thing again, then making a list of special events I could invent and relatives I could importune to visit from out of town so that I can go back. Don't know how to accomplish the impossible and convince anyone still reading this that this isn't a shill, but oh well. It was perfect. It made me happy. I hope it makes you happy too.