I had dinner at Scalinatella on Tuesday night. As usual the service was excellent. There were two specials which I would strongly recommend if you find them offered. There were also two specials which were rare misses for Scalinatella. As an appetizer special, grilled octopus was one of the best renditions I have had in Manhattan. Very simply prepared, brushed with olive oil and a hint of garlic. They were perfectly grilled resulting in a meaty texture with nicely charred ends. An off the menu Veal chop was also fantastic. A huge chop (not pounded) was grilled to a perfect pink center and covered in a blanket of sauteed shitake mushrooms and garlic. Very simple and very good.
Two specials that I would steer clear of if you find them offered were a starter of stuffed Zucchini flowers and an entree of rolled and stuffed sword fish. The Zucchini flowers were stuffed with Mozerrella and bits of Proscuito, dipped in egg, rolled in flour and pan fried in olive oil. Zucchini flowers are far too delicate for such a heavy egg coating and do not need a coating of any kind before pan frying. The sword fish were four pieces pounded thin, rolled around goat cheese, dusted with flour and pan fried. The whole thing rested on top of a red pepper reduction. It was the first time I have ever seen Scalinatella delve into smomething akin to nouvelle cuisine and they would be well advised to delve no more. The sword fish was dried out and the whole thing simply did not work.
Your best bet for dessert at Scalinatella is always an order of fresh berries and home made whipped cream. The restaurant always stocks the sweetest rasberries and black berries as well as picture perfect, huge, sweet strawberries. The almond flavored biscotti are a nice accompaniment.
My one consistent complaint about Scalinetella is their wine list. There are only two or three bottles under $35 and very little representation from southern Italy. I did have a fantastic albeit expensive ($85)Chardonnay. Cervaro Della Sala, from the Antinori family in Tuscany. The wine is an oak-aged blend of Chardonnay and 20% Grechetto (a grape native to central Italy). I am usualy not a fan of Chardonnay or spending $85 for a bottle of wine, but this was absolutely delicious.