Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Supporting Local (Sort of...)

When I announced on Twitter that I was headed to New York City, several fellow Clevelanders chimed in with restaurant suggestions- but two recommended the same restaurant. What are the odds of that happening in the sea of amazing dining options in NYC? I knew this meant that I needed to check it out. It also helped that the chef/owner, Andrew Carmellini, is Cleveland-born. That concept excited me- supporting "locally" while traveling. I'd love to do more of it when I'm out of town. I'll keep you posted!

I finally got my wish on our last night there. We headed into Carmellini's Locanda Verde in Tribeca with high hopes. They reserve 3/4 of the dining room but allow 1/4 for walk-ins, which I appreciate. We arrived to put our name in and were told that the wait would be about an hour and fifteen minutes- which is nothing in NYC. (P.S. World-famous chef Eric Ripert walked in just as we did- so we knew this was going to be good!) I asked when we should check back in, was told an hour, and then we happily walked down the block to a wine bar to settle in for a drink during our wait. 45 minutes passed and we headed back up the street- only to be told that another party of five had checked in before us and they had given our table away. With a little persuading I found out that they had a "drawing room" table available, so we jumped at it.

Seriously the main dining room patrons didn't know what they were missing out on! This quiet, cozy area is tucked away for special guests and included a roaring fire, soft leather couches and chairs, candles galore, and a private bar. It suited us just fine. We curled up around a long wooden coffee table and settled in for one of the best meals of my life. I can truly say that Carmellini is a genius in the kitchen, because we sampled over half of the dishes on his extensive menu. Some were slightly better than others, but all stood out as well-thought out and executed combinations of ingredients and flavors.

I won't describe each, but I'll indicate the best and provide a few notes. You would not be disappointed with any of these dishes, seriously. Here are the dishes we tried by category:

Sheeps' Milk Ricotta with sea salt and herbs ($12)- perfect to share, the bread was fantastic
Blue Crab with jalepenos and tomato ($10)- best of the three
Cotechino Sausage with pickled ramps on ciabatta ($7)- weakest of the three but still very good
Marinated Beets salad with pistachio pesto and gorgonzola ($10)- tasty but needed more pesto and cheese
Steak Tartara Piedmontese with walnuts, truffles and crispy guanciale ($17)- needed more spices but the best that we've tried
Lamb Meatball sliders with caprino and cucumber ($12)- his twist on a gyro, best antipasti
Casarecce with spicy shellfish and toasted garlic ($19)- prefect hint of heat, well-prepared calamari, mussels, and baby shrimp included
Fonduta Ravioli with wild mushrooms and parmigiano reggiano ($19)- best pasta dish!
Penne Rigate with lamb bolognese, ricotta and mint ($19)- bolognese was very good
Wood-Fired Pork Chop with fagioli stufato, pepperoncini and aceto onions ($28)- crispy outside and slightly pink throughout, very moist
Hazelnut Semifreddo with coffee poached pear, mocha sorbetto, toasted hazelnuts ($10)
Maple Budino with candied pecans, apple butternut sorbetto ($11)- the best dessert, a house specialty
Fromagio di Fossa
Blue di Moncenisio
Pecorino Oro Antico

We thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience, which went well beyond the food. I also felt my Cleveland pride shine, because when I asked my NYC-native friend if she had heard of the restaurant she lit up with excitement. Locanda Verde is making quite a splash in the NYC dining scene and she was dying to try it. It felt good to tell her that he was from Cleveland. Now if we could only get him to come back and open a restaurant here....

Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-3797

*photo courtesy of Sheeps' Milk Ricotta