So I was super excited to go to Crispo, having read all the buzz about it on the board. I'm a huge Lupa fan, and have been looking for new Italian joints to go to in Manhattan. Especially more so since I had just gotten back from living in Italy.
I really hate to say this, but given the buzz about this place on the board, I was actually shocked at how bad the food was (Maybe there are two Crispos, and they ment the other one, my friend said)
I went with two friends, and we were seated at about 10:30.
We ordered three appetizers:
Risotto Balls, which were fried, not baked, that came with an awful marinara sauce for dipping. All of us commented that if you had given them to us blindfolded, we would have thought we were eating frozen mozzarella sticks and dipping sauce from a diner.
Prosciutto, Polenta, and Fresh Mozzarella, which came out looking great. But the heat from the polenta had already started to cook the prosciutto (it didn't say on the menu it was supposed to be prosciutto cotto) leaving it somewhere in between raw and cooked, and rather unpleasant. This wouldn't have been so bad if the polenta hadn't been a complete watery mess, leaving it with no flavor at all what-so-ever.
The arugula, ceci, and ricotta salata salad was something that had to be hard to mess up, but it was also pretty awful. It was left completely bone dry, until you got to the bottom of the salad, where all of the oil and lemon juice had been hidden in a huge blob at the bottom of the plate. I found it hidden down there way too late to enjoy the dish, as almost everything was gone already at that point.
No fear, I said, I came here for the pasta, and the pasta will not disappoint!
Well, it did. Big time.
First off, the pasta portions were huge. They aren't meant as first courses, it would appear, but rather as main courses. So that was the first turn off. I understand that lots of people like to have pasta as a main course, I'm American and I do also, but if this is supposed to be a serious Italian restaurant, that isn't that way it should be done. Especially when your main courses are labeled "Secondi" on your menu.
I had the Butternut Tortelloni with Roasted Chestnuts. This looked and smelled wonderful, but in the mouth just didn't work well. I expected the dish to be a nice mix of sweet and savory, but the chestnuts were just SO sweet they overpowered the whole dish, making it seem more like a dessert. I could only eat about half of it before I had to stop.
My friend got the Bucatini all'Amatriciana (spelled wrong on their menu. Not a huge deal, but you know, just saying). This was the best pasta of the night, but given the circumstances that really isn't saying much. I have high standards for this dish, with the one at Lupa being one of my favorite things to eat of all time. So when you serve this not that far away, and $5 more expensive than at Lupa, you better know what you're doing.
The guanchiale they used was fantastic, but the what should be the driving force of the dish, the thick tomato sauce, was flavorless, and overpowered by the chili pepper. The cheese that came with the pasta grated on top even tasted funky, and I mean funky in a out of a jar grated cheese kind of way. And yes, this was the best pasta dish of the night.
My girlfriend got the Carbonara, which was easily the worst of the night, if not the worst Carbonara I've ever had. She couldn't even eat it (and she's not half as picky as I am), and just had them wrap it up to take home. Wet noodles in egg is about the best way I can describe it. No flavor, no seasoning, just noodles in egg. Ehck.
We did order one secondo to share, the seared duck with figs and port, which was actually really good. Simple, cooked well, and to the point. Really enjoyed it, though at this point, I was just happy I could stomach eating it.
We skipped dessert at this point, and just went straight to coffee, and called it a night.
The service was fantastic, and I liked the whole rustic/nouveau (sp?) mix of the decor, though I thought the music selection was pretty bad (cheesy 80's dance music just didn't fit the atmosphere. We laughed a few times at the music that came on)
Oh, and a small, and this is totally personal, complaint about the wine list though. When I'm eating Italian, I want a nice, large selection of Italian wines from all over Italy, and I felt like the list at Crispo was too much of a mix of New and Old World.
I also hate it when restaurants group their wine lists into "Light" "Medium" and "Full" Bodied sections, instead of by country and region, making it impossible to find something you want if you're looking for a specific varietal, or region of production. This is totally personal though, I realize not everyone is as into Italian wines as I am, and I'm not letting this make or break the restaurant for me.
So what happened? Did I go on a really off night, or are their others out there who agree with me that this place is over rated? I really wanted to like Crispo, but with higher prices, bad pasta, and a worse wine selection that Lupa, I can't really see a reason to go back again.