Review - Becco (355 WEST 46TH ST , 212-397-7597 , WWW.LIDIASITALY.COM)
After catching an early showing of a movie last night, we got a cellphone call from an old friend, suggesting we meet him at Becco. Happily, we were in the Theatre District so popped over to meet him for dinner. It was quite a happy coincidence since we'd actually thought about using this place for a private party next year, but for a variety of reasons, had picked a French place. I know Becco gets a lot of comments here -- and some negative posts -- but we had a great time last night and wanted to share. Quick thoughts:
I really liked the ambience upon entry, a nice low beam encased ceiling, lights turned down just perfectly, with quality woodwork along the sides. In addition, the bar was a pleasing piece of millwork. It seems like they have some space in back and upstairs too, but the three of us were seated at a round table in the middle of the front room. It was a nice touch that they had real white linens (with no annoying paper on top) for their price point. I didn't notice the Lidia cookbooks for sale (and oh so many of them!) until we strolled out, stuffed like swine.
Our server greeted us promptly and gave us a box of breadstuffs (rustic bread, thin sticks, and foccacia plus some olives and white bean paste) along with the menus. The bread and spread were great, really easy to nibble on. We selected a big white Piedmontese from the $25 list while he rattled off the specials to us. I wish more places would make a commitment to stocking wine at consumer friendly price points on the wine list. I am a serious oenophile and I *almost always* would rather pull mature bottles from my cellar -- paying corkage fees of $10-$25 routinely --rather than order something I don't know off a wine list. Becco's policy makes me want to try their wines, rather than BYO. I don't think I saw a table last night that did not have wine on it, so clearly, something is working here. Our servers were attentive all evening long, refilling our water and other service as needed.
Our friend suggest we do the pasta prixe fixe special, which seemed fine to me. My SO had the Caesar salad which looked ok to me, while we went with the antipasto. This included : grilled octopus, whitefish salad, ricotta with honey, marinated green peas, grilled zucchini and asparagus, pickled mushrooms, red peppers, bocconni cheese balls, sun dried and pickled tomatoes, and some other sundries. It was quite a bit of stuff, and we liked it.
Then we moved on to the pastas. They started with sage/spinach gnocchi which were in a cream sauce. They were fantastic, supremely plump and juicy, but very rich. Not something you could/would want to eat a lot of, but perfect as a small tasting. These seemed to be made in small batches downstairs and then brought up for cooking/serving. Then came an excellent fresh linguini in bolognese sauce. Super fresh and soft noodles with a great sauce. This was something you could really dig into. The final pasta was rigatoni in a marinara sauce. The rigatoni was good but not as popular as the first two, perhaps because they have to dry the rigatoni before cooking. Part of me suspects that it may be made offsite, or by a vendor. Still it was good, and lighter than the other two.
They kept bring around pans of these and although two of us couldn't eat any more than the initial sample, our friend did manage to put away 3 plates. A most impressive trencherman.
Afterwards they brought dessert and digestiv menus by, but we were stuffed, and had to waddle home. I like this place and it is tremendous value. I'll be back, hopefully with a group. I didn't find any issue with cramped tables or noise, but maybe a late Tuesday supper isn't the time when those problems flare up.