Went last night with two friends.
One of them is like Sally in "When Harry Met Sally," to the nth degree. I'll call her Sally.
Upon our arrival, the hostess began leading us outside. Sally nixed this.
Hostess began leading us upstairs. Again, Sally vetoed.
Hostess sat us in the main room opposite the patio. After half an hour here, Sally complained "it's too cold, there's a draft" and we moved further inside, along the windows facing 3rd.
I asked the server whether they had a Pinot Grigio by the class. "I have something close, a dry Italian white." No name given. Okay...
We decided to make a meal of salads and pasta, which I usually prefer to a big, heavy entree anyway.
One we ordered was the "salad of chickpeas, corn, tomatoes, mixed greens and balsamic." I ordered it as the chickpea salad. "The corn salad," the waiter said. Okay... Ever so slightly pretentious and standoffish, this guy, though he warmed a bit over the course of the evening. The salad itself was okay but a bit hard to maneuver. The ingredients just don't go together very well.
We also ordered the heirloom tomato salad with burrata and basil. I don't remember any basil at all. If there was any, there wasn't enough. I just had the burrata appetizer at Locanda Veneta a few weeks ago, and it was so good it just puts this one to shame. As for the tomatoes, I know, I know...
Finally, they offer a "farro salad with roasted peppers, red onion, olive and pecorino." Sally wanted this without the farro but with some mache and mixed greens instead. After some consultation with the chef, her wish was granted. The salad had nothing to recommend it.
For pastas, we went with three. And it's a good thing because although we were warned the portions are small, they're small, and they're not priced as small portions: $14-$17 a pop.
First, the tagliolini with sauteed shrimp, asparagus and lemon. And I mean a LOT of lemon, to where it was the dominant flavor in the dish. It's not often you have a pasta dish that you'd called tangy. Actually kind of interesting but a little went a long way.
Second, the cavatelli with lamb ragout and fresh mint. Franco-American! Really nothing tying together the pasta with the lamb, just a paint-by-numbers dish.
Finally, the mushroom risotto with zucchini blossoms and parmesan. The zucchini and mushroom flavors got lost among the rice and cheese. The dish was just mushy -- a fairly tasty mush, but...As Carol Burnett said in "Annie," "We're not having hot mush for dinner tonight!...[orphans applaud, cheer, whistle]...We're having cold mush!"
Next came dessert, and the only one that sounded interesting was the ricotta fritters with sour cherry compote and mascarpone ice cream. Sally said, "That's too much cheese" and asked them to substitute the stracciatella ice cream they put with their chocolate almond cake. Not a bad dish, though by the time they've been fried, the ricotta taste is almost lost. However, why serve four fritters to a party of three?
The space itself is nice and certainly a vast improvement on the dark and cavernous look of Cava. It's sleek, modern, elegant, and it's nice to look out onto 3rd. The windows, however, need a thorough scrubbing. One of them has either a large mended hole or a big bug on it -- not the prettiest thing to look at.
So between three salads, three pastas, one dessert, a glass of wine, two iced teas for the ladies: $121 plus tip. Valet seemed a hair understaffed -- either that, or everyone left at once. Took a little while to get the cars. Maitre d' was very nice, came over to make sure everything was okay, probably recognizing he had a difficult one on his hands in Sally.
There were a fair number of people but plenty of space available. As Sally said, "I wouldn't rush back. Il Pastaio's better."