With Mark and Allison here this weekend we wanted one evening spent at a nice dinner with just the four of us. A little sibling bonding, if you will. I sent them a list of restaurants and they most liked one that didn’t take reservations – we had good a chance as anyone to get in, right? We figured even if there was an hour and a half wait, we’d grab a drink first. Well, when we arrived a little after 7, we were informed the wait was so long there was nothing til 10:30 and they wouldn’t even take our name because the kitchen would be closing by the time they were ready for us. Run roh. At this point, we hadn’t made reservations and all the other West Village restaurants were booked. Everyone was giving us the same story: nothing til 10. So we decided to pivot. We got ourselves a 10:15 pm reservation at L’Artusi and went to a comedy show (where we could snack on popcorn) to pass the time.
L’Artusi is a place I’ve wanted to go to for years. After all, it’s one of the highest rated spots on The Infatuation in all of NYC. The only reason I didn’t suggest it in the first place was because I couldn’t get a reservation. But with a late night rezzy suddenly becoming acceptable for our crew, I could finally try a place I’d been hearing about for so long. Since I’d been to the sister restaurant, dell’anima, I knew it would live up to the hype – and it did.
The menu is organized into five columns, from left to right: crudo, verdura, pasta, pesce, and carne. Basically lightest to heaviest. We decided share around and ordered two cheeses, two verdura, three pasta, and two pesce. It was probably one dish too many but it was all sooooo good.
To start, the cheese was delish. It’s cheese. Yum. I also really enjoyed the chicories, which Allison perfectly described as a fancy as hell Caesar salad. I sturdy green like chicory stands up well against an anchovy dressing.
But the star veggie dish was the roasted mushrooms, which was topped with pancetta, a fried egg with perfect yolk, some chiles for just a little kick, and shaved ricotta salata. Order this if you go. That’s a command. The mushrooms had such a depth of flavor and I’ve rarely seen the combo of them with egg and that bit of heat. It’s not just a star veggie dish; it’s a star dish.
Our larger items, the charred octopus with olives and pancetta and the swordfish with pine nuts, were both very good. The octopus in particular had a nice rub on it. As good as these dishes were, however, they paled in comparison to the pasta, which was so good.
It’s the pasta and those mushrooms that earned this restaurant that 9.5 rating. The gnocchi was firm but not gummy and went well with the rabbit it was paired with. I think that might have been mark and Allison’s favorite. Myself, I still can’t stop thinking about the other two. The bucatini was perfectly al dente. It was a super simple preparation with tomato, pancetta, chiles, and pecorino but the simplicity highlighted its perfection. That “perfect” spaghetti at Scarpetta? This is what it wants to be when it grows up. I also really enjoyed the oriecchette with sausage, chard, and pecorino. This was the hearty winter pasta I hope for. I usually see this pasta shape with sausage and broccoli rabe, but I really liked the swap with chard and onion. And if I can have pecorino instead of simple olive oil? Sign me up.
It took me years to get to L’Artusi but I really hope I can score a follow up visit soon because this was a stellar Italian meal.