We went to Tappo (cork in Italian, according to the sous chef), a new Mediterranean restaurant on the corner of 12th St. and 1st Ave. (entrance slightly east of 1st ave. on 12th st.) after watching the construction for several weeks. Last night was the opening night, so the staff was eager and slightly disorganized. They said the chef was from Rome and the sous chef had spent some time at Il Buco. The place is decorated to look like an Italian farmhouse with antique wooden tables and exposed brick-easy to forget that you are on a particularly unattractive block of 1st Avenue. The menu consists of about 15 appetizers, some written in English, others in Spanish and Italian. The entrees were recited verbally, as they change daily. We were told that all the fish is flown in from the Mediterranean (happily, not the meat). The entrees I can remember: a whole dorade with artichokes, a grilled baby chicken, rack of lamb,a risotto and 3 interesting sounding pasta-one was with wild mushrooms.
As we were recovering from the Super Bowl festivities the night before, we went with 4 appetizers to share between the two of us: Thinly sliced grilled filet mignon with mushrooms, mackeral tartare with arugula salad, skewered sweetbreads with tomato and zucchini and grilled whole baby octopus on top of tabouleh. The verdict: except for mediocre bread and the octopus, which seemed to not belong with the tabouleh and was slightly rubbery, everything we had was very good. There was obviously a lot of care put into the preparation and presentation. We also had an excellent Rioja that was available by the glass (so much for recovering!) They also threw in on the house one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever had-warm, dense with whipped cream and berries, biscotti and dessert wine. Can't wait to go back to try the whole fish!