Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Italian Night in the West Village

I walked into L'Artusi on West 10th between Bleecker and Hudson with a low expectations. The place was just 2 weeks old and even the best of the best (in this case, the team behind dell'anima, another popular West Village Italian restaurant) need to work out kinks in the beginning.

First impression: so-so. stark white, Ikea feel was a minus but the long bar and open kitchen were pluses.

Service: Hostesses were nice but made us feel like we were bothering them for wanting to have dinner at the bar. It was 7:30 and the place was empty for crying out loud. Bartender Tommy was great, made us a few of his favorite cocktails.

Crowd/Ambience: A good mix of gay/straight, suits/creatives, hot/not, hipster/posers. A few d-bags with some faux blonde, faux breasted blonds but overall a B+ at least. By 8:30 it was a hoppin' scene at the bar and we gawked and winked at some good looking men (including Mr. Lance Bass' uber tanned ex-boyfriend AND a tall guy we nick named Meaty McSweet Ass)

Cocktails: When we sat down in the front bar and took one look at the wine and cocktail list, we knew were in for a good drinking night. The wine list had a good variety and was reasonably priced. I ordered the Vermentino which was crisp and light, a perfect beginning. We also had a few cocktails throughout the night. LL had one that was sparkling wine based called "Jester" and I had a campari infused margarita. We finished the evening strong: a whiskey based twist on a Manhattan and an egg and nutmeg Bailey's look alike that is way better than it sounds (the bartender was insulted when I compared it to an Irish car bomb without the guinness).

Food: Menu looked great, full of homey, basic Italian choices. We shared the spaghetti and meatballs to start...the pasta was perfectly al dente and the meatballs flavorful though a tad bit dry. LL had the skate with olives and potatoes that was tasty despite the proliferation of fish wing bones. I had the seared monkfish with crispy prosciutto and a celery puree...never thought mushed up celery could be so yummy.

Overall: One thumb up! Give it a bit of time and it might be two thumbs up. Next time I will sit at the back raw/crudo bar near the open kitchen and try the other 5 cocktails on the menu. One advice for the place...move the bathrooms to the upstairs or the back....it's weird to have it RIGHT near the front door!

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