About a month back I organized a 30-person dinner for work at Locanda Verde, and it was supposed to take place tonight. Due to the over-blown ominous warnings of an impending snow storm, however, I was coerced into canceling. I soon became bitter that a delicious 4 course meal I had been anxiously anticipating vanished before my eyes, especially as the sun shined outside my office window. The remedy to my angst? Screw the media and their storm threats and go to Locanda Verde regardless. Not a blizzard in sight, sturdy boots were strapped on, and it was my friend Bruce’s 40th birthday – all signs pointed toward instant gratification.
Because of the long wait for tables there, Bruce, his sister, and I were seated at the end of the bar, where Bruce temporarily had to stand until a third stool was released to the wild. I rarely do bar seating but am always reminded what fun it is – you get to interact with the waitstaff, order what you want when you want it, and it’s much more laid back than table dining. The place was packed but not so much that we were overwhelmed by wall to wall bodies, thanks to the front waiting area.
We started with my favorite – the sheep’s milk ricotta crostini. The menu changes often but this item is and will always be longstanding. It’s phenomenal in its simplicity – utterly creamy, nutty, and silky – it pairs so perfectly with a crusty crunk of charred bread and a glass of wine. It’s less fluffy than the ricotta I’ve had elsewhere; denser, in between the consistency of whipped cream and cream cheese.
Being with two adventurous eaters, we proceeded with the tripe alla parmigiana with a farm egg, which was more like a tripe-tomato stew en casserole. In spite of the foodie I claim to be, I couldn’t bring myself to eat the main component, but the egg and the sauce was great with the warm rosemary focaccia.
Next, we split my favorite – the pumpkin agnolotti with sage and brown butter sauce. Silky smooth, delicate, ravioli-esque pasta filled with soft, buttery, sweet pumpkin puree, this dish was surprisingly light but obviously delicious. Their pastas are insane.
For our main, we shared the short rib special, which sat on top of a smooth puree of potato. Being fish obsessed, I was surprised to find myself licking my plate clean. The meat fell apart so gracefully – its fragility was almost poetic. On the side we ordered another favorite of mine: roasted brussels sprouts with pancetta and pecorino, which were evidently cooked with a generous portion of rich extra virgin olive oil and coarse chunks of sharp cheese. At the risk of sounding repetitive, these were AWESOME.
We didn’t intend to order dessert (the sweetness of our delicious Barbera wine sufficed), but because Bruce is a good friend of the staff, they sent out the maple budino with candied pecans, maple, and butternut sorbet for the special occasion. They also must have seen me longingly eyeing the dessert menu. Though every part of the meal was stellar, the dessert is the reason I will return to Locanda Verde at least once again before the end of the month. As Bruce sister’s said, the indescribably soft and light maple pudding was “f***ing phenomenal.” When I think maple, I think excruciatingly sweet. This was beautifully subtle in every sense of the word…Pastry Chef Karen DeMasco really, really has a gift.
I’m pretty lucky that the only sub-par meal I’ve had thus far in 2011 was the one cooked by yours truly (see post below), but even luckier that the extent of deliciousness of the positive meals has been so incredibly grand. This meal really tipped my scale….Call me cliche, but I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve jumped high up on the Locanda Verde bandwagon.
Location: 377 Greenwich Street @ North Moore