Mosto is the attractive new Italian restaurant some of you may have passed on the northwest corner of 5th St. and 2nd Av., at a location formerly occupied by an Argentinian steakhouse. It's been open about 3 or 4 weeks. I got there tonight a bit after 10 P.M. and, while there were some empty tables, the place is already popular, and justly so.
Before I had even ordered, I got a good initial impression of the food by eating some of the tasty bread that was given to me. I began the meal proper with the insalata di carciofi, which was described as a salad of artichoke and shavings of parmesan cheese. I've had similarly-described salads in other restaurants. I didn't know whether to expect marinated artichoke hearts out of a jar or quite what would be brought to my table, but I love artichokes and figured I would give the salad a try. In the event, it was a salad chock-full of thin-sliced fresh artichokes (presumably boiled earlier in the day, allowed to cool, sliced, and refrigerated), accompanied by much smaller amounts of parmesan cheese and arugula, plus a slice of lemon that I didn't notice at first (I would have used lemon juice instead of putting on some vinegar first). The artichokes were firm and not limp, and uniformly delicious, and the arugula was of very high quality; of course, the parmesan cheese was of the quality one would expect in any Italian restaurant worth its salt. It was a wonderful salad, really unusually good.
Afterwards, I had penne all'arabbiata as my primo piatto. The portion wasn't of superhuman size as is the case at East Post across the street and other restaurants many of you could list but, along with the salad, it was quite sufficient. More importantly, it was an absolutely great rendition, a very tasty tomato sauce with the amount of cayenne pepper bite I was hoping for.
I had had enough to eat, so I did not sample any of the secondi piatti, nor the desserts, which included a panna cotta and a crema cotta, which was described to me as a creme brulee (I forget what the third dessert was). I was feeling tired already, so I was not interested in having any wine, and didn't look over the wine list today. However, based on the food I ate, I would have no hesitation in saying that Mosto is already one of the best Italian restaurants in the East Village. Franco, evidently the owner, introduced himself to me, and I congratulated him on the terrific food his restaurant serves. He told me he comes from Bologna, whereupon I remarked "No wonder the food is so good here." (In Italy, it's considered a truism that "Si mangia bene a Bologna" = "One eats well in Bologna).
My only real complaint about the restaurant is that the music they play is mostly so boring that I found it bothersome - you know, the kind of music that results from choosing 1-4 pitches and 1 rhythmic figure and repeating those pitches in that rhythm ad nauseum. There was a woman who, at length, lit up a cigarette at a table, but that was the only person I noticed smoking, and the room was well-ventilated. The decor is attractive and the ambiance is festive, if the noise level is a bit loud, with people talking over the propulsive dance music.
I consider Mosto to be a great value. My meal cost $21, including tip. Clearly, this is by no means exceptionally cheap for salad plus pasta, but it is economical, and the food was so good. I figure that it would be easy to spend $40 or more per person if you arrive hungrier than I and eat a secondo piatto and dessert as well as a salad or/and appetizer and primo piatto, and have wine with the meal. Also, the penne all'arabbiata was one of the cheapest primi.
I got the impression that no tables were reserved, so I don't know if Mosto takes reservations. They have a pretty well-oiled service operation, except that it was just a bit difficult to get people's attention to get my check. Anyway, though, the woman (the owner's wife?) who brought my check also brought a business card. Here's Mosto's contact info:
87 Second Av. at 5th St.