Partway through pre-dinner cocktails last night, I received a very, very apologetic voicemail from a well-known Italian restaurant, who needed to cancel our impending dinner reservation due to an exhaust problem in the kitchen. The kitchen needed to close for the night! They couldn't serve us! They were very sorry and offered to make it up to us in the future, but what to do now?
I still wanted Italian and we wracked our brains for somewhere that would be amenable to an 8pm walk-in. We were fairly hungry and needed to eat. I was craving pasta.
Enter...L'Artusi. After a short (30 min) wait, we were comfortably seated at the front counter (the one that isn't attached to the open kitchen in the back).
The fluke ceviche with pineapple, mint, lime, and chili peppers was divine. Fresh, spicy, fruity. The roasted mushrooms served with a sunny side up egg, pancetta and shredded ricotta salata were 2nd only to the ones at Craft. Savory, gooey, cheesy, meaty, the flavors melded perfectly. Simple, rustic, and completely addictive. The bowl may have been scraped clean.
We were also big fans of the spaghetti. My husband said it changed his entire outlook on spaghetti, which he usually isn't a big fan of, due to having too many super heavy tomato and meatball preparations in his youth. For example, he likes but doesn't love the spaghetti pomodoro at Scarpetta. But this spaghetti? Totally different. Served perfectly al dente, served with a ton of garlic, parmesan, chili pepper flakes, no tomatoes in sight. Only olive oil (and I assume butter). Chewy and delicious!
We finished with the luscious sweetbreads a la plancha, served with capers, lemon, olives, and currants. Excellent crust on the sweetbreads, tender insides, and some briny goodness from the other components on the plate -- enough to balance out the richness of the sweetbreads.
Dessert was a tough one -- we were struggling with choosing the winter citrus panna cotta with negroni gelee and a grapefruit campari granita (intriguing) and the hazelnut chocolate torta. The torta won out and I'm glad we tried it. Roasted hazelnuts and sprinkles of sea salt resting on a rectangular hazelnut-chocolate torta, with salted caramel ice cream sitting on a bed of praline crunch to the side, and smears of dark chocolate here and there. A perfect bite: a flake of sea salt, some hazelnut-chocolate filling, crumbly crust, a single roasted hazelnut, and some of that delectable salted caramel ice cream. Divine.
The staff were extremely nice and very helpful in guiding our menu selections. Every single person we talked to that night could not have been nicer, from the bartender to the busboys to the woman at the host stand. Comfortable, reasonably priced, without an insane wait. A neighborhood gem.
228 West 10th Street, New York, NY 10014