I left Spasso tonight with a full belly and a huge smile. Splendid. With monthly restaurant openings in the West Village, I’ve grown pessimistic about this area’s success rate, but tonight’s meal showed serious promise for what’s to come. Spasso’s cartoonish, tacky awning is no sign of its tasteful, cozy interior. A marble lined bar consumes the narrow entry way, but a spacious, subtly lit dining area in the back faces mirrors and an open kitchen, bringing warmth on one of the coldest nights of the year. With similar sophistication to that of L’artusi and Dell’Anima, with less pretentiousness and anxiety around finding a place to stand, Spasso responds well to my requests of what my neighborhood needs to see more of.
Our server was spot on with timing, and carefully attentive to my sister and my needs. After placing our order, he came right back with bread, allowing us to chat and enjoy our wine before our appetizers came out. Despite the increasing demand for tables, we felt rushed by no one else but the couple at the bar grilling our table like a lion sizing up its prey.
We started with the housemade stracciatella cheese and grilled bread, and the only salad on the menu, tricolore with parmesan cheese. The salad was very well seasoned and light, but it incomparable to the most beautiful depiction of cheese I’ve ever seen. Served in a bowl, the straciatella was basically the creamiest of creamy burrata torn into pieces and served as a textural dip. Indescribably amazing. I’m rarely rendered speechless by a dish, but something this simple, so well seasoned, and so true to its ingredients merited more than just moments of silence. The milky mozzarella liquid was so fresh – like liquid gold for my crusty, garlicky bread. This stracciatella may have just permanently switched up my weekly routine – who says you can’t eat a bowl of cheese for dinner?
We ordered the eggplant arancini and the roasted cod for our main courses, but I held onto the cheese in fear of seeing it disappear. The arancini were smoky, delicately fried, but not overwhelmingly greasy. The crispness of the brown crust in the accompanying red pepper whipped ricotta created a beautiful combination of contrasting textures and subtle flavors.
Cod can easily bore me, but this cod melted on my tongue. It was perfectly browned and seasoned and paired well with the citrusy puree and roasted potatoes. Interesting flairs made a potentially simple dish exciting, and the skill with which it was cooked was outstanding. When I am constantly nodding my head in approval throughout a meal, I know it’s a sign I’ll be back.
The dessert menu was limited, but each of the four choices sounded incredible. The one that stood out to me? Yep, you got it, the dark chocolate crostata with salted caramel and sea salt. Just saying it out loud satisfies my chocolate craving. When the tarte came out naked, sans whipped cream or ice cream, I went into auto-pilot disappointment. But upon piercing my fork into the layers of dense chocolate, creamy golden caramel and crumbly chocolate crust, I suspected that this simplicity need not be obstructed by distractions. And with one bite, I felt like I had taken some sort of mega anti-depressant. I felt like dancing. I felt like screaming, Eureka! Spasso has FOUND IT! Honestly, I can’t further describe the uniqueness and well roundedness of this chocolate dessert, but I order you to go to Spasso and learn for yourself. If you’re looking for the depiction of chocolate beauty, this is the place to go. And though two or three bites of this immaculate creation would have been sufficient, I just had to eat the whole thing in fear of never seeing it again.
So with that, I end my night in total abundance, pleasure, excitement, and concern. I’m completely full, content with the quality of my meal, thrilled that I find Spasso in the heart of my stomping grounds, but fearful that before long I’ll hear more “only 5pm or 11pm” responses when I call for a reservation. Worries aside, Spasso deserves attention, so I’m glad to spread the word that tonight, Hudson street earned additional marks of excellence in my book.
Location: 551 Hudson Street @ Perry Street
*first picture from Spasso website, stracciatella from Grub Street