After one false start, my husband and I finally got to Lilia last Friday. The bottom line: this restaurant knocked it out of the park in service and food. If I lived just a little closer to it and reservations were easier to get, I'd put this place in our regular rotation.
From being re-seated (at my request) soon after walking in the door to leaving, the staff could not have been warmer or more accommodating, and genuinely so. My comment to my husband was that between the buzzy but enjoyable atmosphere and sincerely nice staff, we could have been in SF or the East Bay in California. There was no pretension or attitude at all, something I've come to live with while dining at some restaurants in Manhattan.
As for the food, we had in order:
Cocktails and the Cacio e Pepe Fritelle. I could eat these every day.
Two glasses of Lambrusco bianco and Cauliflower, Spicy Soppressata, Sicilian Pesto, Majoram; Cured Sardines, Capers, Dill, Fettunta; grilled shrimp. All were quite good but the sardines were a standout.
A superb and nicely priced bottle of 2013 La Cadalora San Valentino Vallagarina red wine (my husband is the wine enthusiast; I have no real idea what any of that means) and the Rigatoni Diavola, San Marzanos, Chilies, Oregano, Pecorino and Spaghetti, Anchovies, Caramelized Onions. Both pastas were cooked perfectly al dente (well, at least to our liking) and full of flavor. The rigatoni with lots of good spice and rich tomato sauce and the spaghetti with an excellent anchovy flavor, but not overpoweringly so. We then shared the the Grilled Veal Flank Steak, Hot Peppers, Basil which was out of this world tender, tasty and amazing.
We finished by sharing a slice of olive oil cake (one one of my favorites) served with a grappa whipped cream. It was so simple but so, so good. I really have come to dislike fussy desserts. This cake was like homemade.
Missy Robbins, if you are reading this, brava! To you and your staff, from the front of house to the back. Brava!