Our trip to New York this past December was different from our others in the past such that we didn’t have any agenda nor did I make any reservations ahead of time. Typically I set my alarm for 6am 2 months in advance and call to get into whichever restaurant I have on my list and then I go back to bed. We’ve done the 3 hour Michelin star meals, the fussy food where you debate grabbing some street food on the walk home. This time we wanted to eat like locals, explore the different neighborhoods and that’s exactly what we did.
Our first night there we got in late and asked our concierge what they recommended for great Italian food near the hotel (The Mercer Hotel in Soho). Immediately she said, “Peasant!” and off we went to dinner. The ambiance is great, rustic but refined. Chef Frank DeCarlo really prides himself on the kitchen which is meant to be exactly like a true old world kitchen in Italy or France. Rustic brick wood-fired ovens, a rotisserie…the only gas is so they can boil water we were told. Let’s not forget to give credit where due…he laid the brick himself!
The food…where to start?! We couldn’t help ourselves and had to order the Burrata with wood-roasted tomatoes and the Polpi in Purgatorio (baby octopus, hot chiles). Both were outstanding! Perfectly presented, cooked, prepared…delicious and I would order them again in a heartbeat. For our main courses we chose the Gnocchi al Funghi (brown butter, sage, mushrooms) and Tagliolini al Ragu di Vitello (homemade tagliolini, veal ragu). I never use this blog as a forum to talk badly about a restaurant or dish (I just don’t write about them) but in this case I wanted to because I love this restaurant so much but this is where we felt there was something lacking. Neither dish had much flavor which was surprising seeing as our starters were incredible. The pastas lacked salt for one which probably would have made a huge difference. This all being said I would most likely order one of the pizzas and/or meat/fish dishes next time (we were told by other locals after the fact that their pizzas are to die for). For dessert we went with the Budino di Pane e Cioccolato Bianco (white chocolate bread pudding with almonds, figs and white chocolate gelato). I typically stray away from white chocolate but I’m a sucker for bread pudding and I’m glad we tried it because it was incredible!
One more thing to note, I guess there’s a great wine room down below that wasn’t even on our radar. Just something to note!