Finally made it to Cacio e Pepe for dinner last night.I had been looking forward to going based upon the things I read from Chowhounds.I will try to give a comprehensive summary:
Location/Atmosphere- It had been a long time since I was last in the East Village and I enjoyed the area.Cacio e Pepe from the outside appears to be a very romantic restaurant with a nice decor,exposed beams and tall lit candles on each table.Once inside,though,it has a different vibe, one that is more fun.I have eaten in many Italian restaurants but can never remember hearing Jamiroquai music.The place had a nice hip feel to it.My wife commented that it felt like we were having dinner in the bar area before getting a table.That was meant in a good way. I found the contradictions of the romantic ambience and club music very interesting and enjoyable.
Service-Outstanding! Truly memorable.We were served by several people from the Maitre D to the Chef himself.Unlike many places where you have a waiter/waitress,here you had kind of a team.I found it very interesting to see the Chef come into the dining area every 20 minutes or so to talk to the diners and ask if they were enjoying their meals.I rarely see that.
Appetizers/Starters-The appetizers were particularly good.I had a terrific smoked baked cow milk with prosciutto di Parma.The cheese was very smoky and it combined well with the very lean prosciutto.My wife had the fatback wrapped shrimp which is basically shrimp wrapped around a piece of pork fat served with an interesting white bean puree.She loved the flavor.We also shared a warm ricotta salad served with almond crust,pears and pancetta.Was good but a little unusual.
Entrees- I ordered the signature Cacio e Pepe which was as good as I thought and hoped it would be.The pasta is brought out in a peccorino wheel and mixed.Had a very nice sharpness to it.My wife ordered the special whole Orata,baked and served with bay leaves,white wine and lemmon.It came with roasted potatos and vegetables.She liked it but it was not all that memorable.The food overall was very good but we had 2 complaints.The biggest one is the portion sizes were small.We are not expecting Carmines type portions but these were the smallest serving sizes we have had at any of the better Italian restaurants in the city.I don't think I ever heard my wife comment on portion size before since she is very petite but she commented that the entrees in general looked like large appetizers.The only other minor complaint would be that many of the dishes were a bit salty from the cheese.
Desserts-Interesting choices.How do you not order something called Olive Oil flavored ice cream? It was surprisingly good and served on a parmagiano cheese basket with honey.The combination of the sweetness of the ice cream,coupled with the sharpness and saltiness of the cheese, made an interesting taste.I had the Panna cotta with tangerine heavy cream.Nothing special and the portion was about the size of a cheese cube.I think they may try a little too hard to make the desserts unique.
Other-We had wanted to order an entree (of the Cacio e Pepe) to take home with us for our daughter.The maitre D said he could do that but warned us that it would not taste the same.A few minutes later the Chef came to our table and suggested we not bring home an entree since it would not taste the same.I found it refreshingly honest to be told this although I obviously knew take out is never the same.I very often order an entree to go and this is the first time that I was told it would not be as good. A nice touch I thought.
Overall, we loved Cacio e Pepes lively vibe,food and exceptional service.Portion size could be improved and the dessert menu tweeked but a great experience.