“Have you ever been to a place where you feel you could just sit and linger at the bar all night and be perfectly content and relaxed?” asks roze. Lately she and other hounds have found contentment and relaxation at Bar Stuzzichini, a two-month-old trattoria with an all-Italian wine list and a menu long on small plates.
You can sample any five of those small plates, or stuzzichini, for $22. Those who have say the best bets include chickpea crostini, fried artichokes, grilled prawns, arancini (fried rice balls), eggplant caponata, ricotta with saffron and honey, and supertender grilled octopus. Among the larger pastas and secondi, hounds endorse orecchiette with fresh peas; tagliatelle with pistachio, pecorino, and lemon zest; gnocchi all’amatriciana (with guanciale, tomato, onion, and chiles); and swordfish alla Trapanese, grilled and stuffed with pine nuts and raisins and topped with a Sicilian-style pesto. Wines, sold by the bottle or the quartino, are well chosen and priced, psp reports.
Some are underwhelmed. “I liked everything just fine, but nothing was particularly memorable,” shrugs Bob Martinez, who adds that the delicious exception was pleasingly peppery polpette (meatballs). zEli173 finds the popular stuzzichini combo less of a bargain than it appears, given the smallish portions, and complains that the larger plates are overpriced. He also faults the décor and vibe; far from the warmth and intimacy that would suit the rustic, shared-plates menu, the mood falls “somewhere between Bull and Bear and TGI Fridays.”
Another newish spot for bites and beverages is Casellula, where it’s all about cheese—30 or so kinds selected by fromager Tia Keenan, who chose cheeses at the Modern. They’re served alone, in flights, or in cheese-centered small dishes like St. Marcellin fondue with Parmesan crisps; brûléed Cabrales with cherries and Parma ham; and wild mushroom flatbreads with Laura Chenel chèvre from California. Cured meats and a handful of desserts, including a standout lemon tart with pistachios and goat cheese ice cream, round out the menu.
The wine list ranges from Europe to South Africa to Australia to California to Long Island (Wölffer Estate’s Merlot). A short, eclectic beer lineup emphasizes cheese-friendly Belgian and Belgian-style beers (Lindemans and Boon from Belgium, Ommegang from Cooperstown, NY) as well as craft brews such as Magic Hat from Vermont and Hitachino Nest from Japan.
“Great cheese selection, cozy space, small but varied wine list, and a very welcome addition to the neighborhood,” says adam, who faults only the prices. He cites the Pig’s Ass sandwich (ham, cheddar, and Fol Epi cheeses, pickles, chipotle aioli), tasty but tiny for $12.
In the Village, the newest outpost of the Blue Ribbon empire is packing them in—which isn’t hard when around 20 people will fill up the room. Yet hounds say Blue Ribbon Downing Street Bar manages to be a relaxed, convivial place. A gracious and knowledgeable staff pours a wide selection of wines (in glasses or flights as well as bottles and splits) and serves snackish dishes and desserts.
Cheeses are a strong point; try toasts with Manchego and Mexican honey (one of the artisanal varieties sold at nearby Blue Ribbon Bakery Market). Also recommended: pâtés, well-seasoned deviled egg “shooters,” sweetbreads with mushrooms, salads (arugula and butternut squash, or smoked trout, Bibb lettuce, and potato), and bread pudding with crème anglaise. “The food is great. Service is warm, informed, casual. The room is cozy. It’s a good trip all around,” says jsmitty.
Board Links: Great meal at Bar Stuzzichini
Bar Stuzzichini- mini, mini review
Bar Stuzzichini–Very Mediocre
Blue Ribbon Wine Bar (Downing Street) Brief Review
What’s opening at 34 Downing Street?