A good friend, Shannon, is visiting this weekend from Washington, DC. Shannon enjoys a good meal and is a great conversationalist and nice meals always feel a little more special when she enjoyed in her company. Rather than hitting up my list for a new spot to visit when Shannon is town, I went back to two favorites – Scarpetta and The Little Owl. I made reservations at both restaurants for Friday night (the reservations gods must have been looking out for me). Shannon surprised me a bit and opted for The Little Owl. (I know what you are thinking, but the Friday night reservation has been given to a colleague…although I could see reservation giveaways on the blog in the future!) Friday can’t arrive soon enough – sliders and risotto and porkchop, oh my! We will also be taking advantage of The Little Owl’s generous BYOB policy – you are allowed to bring one bottle of wine with no corkage fee. To tide us over until Friday’s meal, I thought that I would reminiscence about the absolutely amazing meal that I had at Scarpetta over the summer. Where to even begin…
We were joined at dinner by another couple, Joe and Claire, who are close friends (also by Ben, who was eight months along in Claire’s belly at the time and joined the world a month ago). Joe and Claire are great dinner companions not only because they are fun to be around, but also because they have great taste in wine. They generously brought a bottle of Cos d’Estrounel for us to enjoy with dinner ($35 corkage…steep).
All I remember of the bread course was the mascarpone butter, which was quite possibly the best butter I have ever tasted. I have a vague memory of the butter being accompanied by several varieties of yummy bread and other spreads and dips, but they had me at butter.
Alas, one cannot make a meal out of butter (although I have tried) and we moved on to a round of appetizers that we all shared (which was only slightly awkward as the appetizers were rather small):
Summer pea soup with crabmeat, riesling & crispy shallots
Polenta with fricassee of truffed mushrooms
Mozzarella in carozza with stewed baby tomatoes
Braised short ribs of beef with vegetable and farro risotto
They appetizers were amazing. The only appetizer with which I was not completely enamored was the pea soup (although it was pretty darn good). I honestly can’t recall which appetizer I enjoyed the most as they were all delicious.
For dinner, we split three pasta dishes. We were going to order two pasta dishes, but the waiter suggested three. In the end, we had too much food, but the third pasta (the cavatelli) that we ordered was the largest. We tried:
Spaghetti with tomato and basil
Agnolotti dal plin filled with mixed meat & fonduta, mushrooms and parmigiano
Cavatelli with ceci, pancetta and bitter greens
My personal favorite was the agnolotti followed closely by the cavatelli (a dark horse), but all of the pastas were wonderful. I would like to see a Scott Conant, Mario Batali throwdown as Conant is one talented purveyor of pasta. (Note to self, must plan return trip to Babbo ASAP to compare).
We finished off with two desserts:
Chocolate cake with burnt orange-caramel gelato and espresso sauce
Peach crostata with candied almond gelato and mint syrup
I was skeptical of the desserts after reading lukewarm reviews, but the desserts were a perfect end to a perfect meal. I preferred the chocolate cake, but I rarely opt for a fruit dessert over a chocolate dessert.
We all agreed that Scarpetta was one of our top 5 NYC meals – an accolade not to be taken lightly from this crowd! Frank Bruni’s three-star review came out the week after we dined at Scarpetta and it’s gotten a bit tougher to get a reservation. There is, however, a large bar and walk-in section (make sure to try the chips at the bar) so what are you waiting for?