Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New York Cleveland Connection

I was in New York recently, and the highlight of my visit was dinner at Locanda Verde, an Italian-inspired taverna in TriBeCa. I’d been promising myself a visit, ever since the restaurant opened last spring. That’s because I’ve been following the career of chef and owner Andrew Carmellini since I learned he is from Cleveland. I like to track culinary success stories with a local link. I’d read about the great things he did at A Voce, interviewed him for The Fabulous Food Show two years ago (read it here), and given his cookbook, Urban Italian a rave review. So I was eager for a chance to taste what he was cooking now.

I was not disappointed. The meal was pure pleasure in every way. I was especially taken with the sheep’s milk ricotta starter. It was sprinkled with sea salt and herbs and splashed with olive oil. Spread thickly on pieces of toasted bread, it was just heaven - simple, straightforward and incredibly delicious. Could say the same about lamb meatball sliders, a plate of grilled sardines, gigantone - a chunky pasta shape I’d never had before - in what he calls Sunday night ragu, and a duck and sausage entree.

Carmellini’s kitchen is turning out unpretentious and deeply satisfying rustic dishes rooted in regional styles and the family fare traditionally made and served at home. This is food that’s easy to love, hearty but not heavy, full of flavor but without any of the self-referential flamboyance that so many chefs indulge in. I’m not the only one that thinks so. The May issue of Food and Wine gives the restaurant a nod on their list of 100 Best New Food and Drink Experiences. Our own Chef Paul Minnillo, a man who knows more than most about good food in general and Italian cooking in particular, told me he was there shortly after it opened and loved what Carmellini was doing. In fact he’s planning to go back soon.

I’m not surprised. Locanda Verde has more than just the menu going for it. It’s informal and reasonably priced with a really appealing café kind of ambiance. The big room is divided into discreet sections and cozy niches so even when it’s filled with bodies and conversational buzz, as it was at 10:30 on a Friday night when I was there, it doesn’t feel too crowded or loud. Many tables offer a view of the open kitchen and wood-burning oven.

Put the place on your NYC to-do list. It’s popular, so reservations are a must. If you’re also in need of somewhere to lay your head, the restaurant is connected to the not so affordable but very luxe and lovely Greenwich Hotel. Makes it so convenient to return to Locanda Verde for breakfast or brunch.

1 comment:

Gina said...

I have heard only good things about Locanda Verde, and I'm so glad you enjoyed it too! I think it's great to see how the flavors of Cleveland - and those who artfully work with them - have grown and enhanced cities all over the country.