Review - Lupa (170 Thompson St)
We had an early dinner here the other day, although with the quantity of food we ordered it ended up taking quite a bit of time. When we walked in the place was buzzing already but we were still seated right away. We were placed in the back room, which I do agree is not as charming/interesting as the front room, but for a quiet dinner it is good. It's easier to hear your companions back there as well as being closer to the restrooms if needed. The place has a great ambience.
Our server brought us wine lists, menus, and a small serving of focacia right away. We dunked that in the olive oil as we mulled the vast wine all-Italian wine list. I know nothing about the regions, so just selected an 04 Valpolicella ($39) that seemed interesting. There was tons of sub $30 wines too so its a great place to be curious and try things you don't know. As they brought that out we got some small plates of roast sweet onions ($6) , marinated eggplant ($6) , salumi ($10) , and sardines ($10). The onions were nothing special; I didn't find them that sweet nor roasted. The marinated eggplant were super, but they do soak up a lot of oil, so it's a bit of a greasy choice. The sardines were smoked and then served with pignola nuts and raisins -- it sounds odd but is really good. If you liked pickled fish then try this. The homemade salumi seems to get rave reviews from everyone, but I didn't think it was anything special, and for $10, it's not much sausage at all.
After we'd mostly demolished that, they brought out the next course -- the sublime gnocchi ($15) in sausage and fennel sauce. This was amazing, some of the greatest pasta I've ever had in my life. The dumplings were plump, puffy and just melt in your mouth smooth. These are right up there, probably better, than Spotted Pig's gnocchi. We gobbled those up quickly and went on to the next course.
Next up was the meat. We got the saltimbocca ($18) and a veal special braised in some kind of tomato ragu ($20). I guess people have high opinions of the saltimbocca, but it's not really my thing, so I can't say whether it's a good example or not. The veal was pounded thin and pretty flavorful (salty of course from the prosciutto) and went well with a bed of chard. The braised veal breast was very fatty but tasty and paired well with the sauce. The SO took a few bites and then had to take the rest home for lunch.
We were now stuffed but had to get some dessert anyways. We decided to share the stuffed dates ($8) in red wine sauce. Wow. These are outstanding, totally a one of a kind type of dessert. Forget every dry emaciated date you've had in your life...these are plump, moist and sweet, with no starchiness to them at all. I had a mint tea ($2) to wind down and then we left.
It was $85 per person all in for a lot of food/wine, but the great thing about this place is that you could easily dine here for much less money. We're going to come back, and next time we're just going to have the pastas, and maybe try different wines by the glass.
One can understand why this place is so popular, and well rated by the food critics. I'm looking forward to coming back the next time I have to be in the Village.