Sunday, October 18, 2009

Verde good

Most serious foodies have heard the name Andrew Carmellini. He was the chef at Cafe Boulud and Gray Kunz's Lespinasse before opening A Voce. And my restaurant pals always spoke of him with respect --

Now I know why.

Last week I talked my parents into going to Locanda Verde, his new Italian venture at the Greenwich Hotel (the former site of the doomed Ago), and we all came away extremely impressed. (We also saw James Gandolfini at the bar. And I always have a guilty fondness for spotting celebrities in public.)

We started out with the sardine antipasti which I think it might have been the best sardines I've ever eaten. (Not that I'm the biggest fan of sardines, but still.) They were surprisingly unfishy and they were under a couple of absolutely delicious potatoes. The potatoes looked boiled (and had that texture) but they tasted way too good to be boiled. I don't know what they did to them, but it was excellent.

Next we tried the lamb meatball sliders which were as outrageous as one might expect. (They won the "meatball madness" contest last week at NYC Wine and Food festival.) Not as good, in my mind, as the meatball sliders at the Little Owl, but still absolutely delicious.

We also ordered the roast chicken (pictured) which was garlicky (in a good way) and tender. The side order of roasted potatoes might sound pricey ($6) -- but they're well worth it. (They were some of the best roasted potatoes I've ever eaten.)

For dessert we had pistachio cake (thumbs up) and chocolate malt gelato (thumbs way up).

The only discordant note in the meal was a pasta we ordered -- a penne with sweet sausage and broccoli rabe. I thought it was perfectly fine (there was a nice smattering of chickpeas in it, and I liked the sausage) but my parents didn't care for it. And I admit that it wasn't quite as good as the pasta you'd get at my favorite Italian place, Queen. "An Italian restaurant has to be judged by its pasta," my mother said. Which is true. But not everything can be a home run.

I would also say that the decor is very good -- somewhere between sleek and rustic, which actually fits perfectly in Tribeca. For a new restaurant, it looks somewhat old fashioned. (Which I definitely approve of.) And while LV is hardly a cheap restaurant, it is an extremely good bargain for the quality of the food. (Not one of these dishes broke $20.)

Locanda Verde definitely gets a thumbs up from this schlub.