Another summer night in NYC brings me another last minute ressie, this time at Scarpetta, Scott Conant’s uptown-goes-downtown Italian eatery. As the former chef/owner of L’Impero and Alto, Conant mastered the art of the high end Midtown Italian resto and after taking a self-imposed hiatus for about a year, he opened Scarpetta in May. Here, he has mastered the art of refined Italian cookery – rustic, peasant food this is not.
I almost walked by Scarpetta as the entrance is relatively unassuming on a patch of West 14th street that (thankfully) borders the Meatpacking District (aka: the B&T District, gross). You enter into a very cool yet warm room with slick wood details and a marble bar. In the front lies “tavern” area where reservations are not needed (a la a Danny Meyer resto) and along the lengeth of the room runs the long marble bar where me and my two lovely ladies sat down for a glass of refreshing prosecco prior to our meal. We were seated on time in the main dining room with a gorgeous glass ceiling and masculine, leather details that I wasn’t particularly fond of (mirror on the walls? no thanks). There was a festive feel to the atmosphere that was compounded by the Euro trash sitting behind us taking photos of themselves sitting on each others laps (klassy). As we had been sitting at the bar catching up for an hour, we quickly ordered a wonderful, floral, fruity bottle of Rocca di Monte Vermentino and sat down to a few must-have dishes: The Creamy Polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms and the Buratta with pickled julienned eggplant. Both were just divine – I will never forget that polenta – it was perfection. Conant has a sort of Midas touch with simple ingredients, turning polenta (cornmeal) into a luxurious, dimepiece dish by adding Parmesan and cream and topping it off with truffled mushrooms. The buratta was, of course, stunning. It is my favorite fromage so I am never disappointed. The pickled eggplant was so interesting and had a mushroom-like texture that I mistook it for Enoki mushrooms at first. It lent a nice contrast to the creamy buratta.
Next up were the pastas. Of course, we ordered the spaghetti simply described on the menu as “spaghetti, tomato & basil”, this was, after all, what Frank Bruni has been raving about. Although I have some reservations about a $24 pasta + tomoto sauce dish, this one was excellent. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce was clean and we all detected some heat (some sort of red pepper?). I don’t know, but it certainly was delicious. We also had the cavatelli with ceci (chickpeas), pancetta & bitter greens which has a crazy interesting texture – the mushy peas, the al dente pasta and the meaty pancetta made for quite the interesting mouth feel (heee).
After we ensured there was no food left on the table, we chatted about the usual, hair, makeup and boys until we decided to flip through the dessert menu. Knowing I was with a certain gal, I knew we were ordering two (yay!). We decided on the Chocolate and Vanilla Parfait with a hazelnut milkshake and biscotti along with the Caramelized Apple “Pie” with a polenta crust, black pepper-caramel sauce, & honey-vanilla gelato. Now let me be forward and say that in my experience, such a wonderful meal is usually followed by desserts that are a teensy bit disappointing but not so at Scarpetta. The parfait was sort of like a grown up, deconstructed Carvel ice cream cake with bits of chocolate cookie crumbles. Again, the texture was clearly thought out – the crumbles with the smooth, pudding-like parfait was perfect but then there was also the hazelnut milkshake (hi) and the dry biscotti which I dipped into the shake for extra love. The Caramelized Apple Pie was expected though the crust was incredibly light and smooth as it was made with polenta. What was incredibly and maybe the best I have ever had was the honey vanilla gelato. It was creamy but clean, sweet but just so, quite the flavor collabo.
I will be back here in no time. I know this. The food, the wine – it was all too good, too soulful, to relegate to the back of the NYC restaurant list. Scott Conant clearly brings refined Italian to a new level with his careful and thoughtful preparations. Viva Scarpetta!
Restaurant Girl’s Review