One food related task that I dont particularly enjoy much is picking a place for a family function. Normally what I have to deal with is a large group, not enough time, a place we havent been,
not too adventurous Italian. Good luck, you have 24 hours. Normally I enjoy picking restaurants but this can be as much fun as a vasectomy consultation (ok, last vasectomy joke this week I promise. Its not even that funny if you ask me). But somehow, by pure miracle, perhaps with the help of Whole Foods cereal I was having that morning, I came up with the perfect spot. No problem reserving a table since the place has been around for a while, perfect menu for this crowd, and a table that is… let me put it this way… If Don Corleone ever needed a table to entertain 20 of his immediate family in NYC, that is the table he would get. Located in the Crispo garden, partly covered which was perfect for a cool summer night, this table set the tone to a beautiful dinner.
Crispo is one of those spots I’ve known for years but somehow never made it. The menu featured classics from the entire nation of Italia, a few neighboring countries (neighboring to Italy, not talking about Canada), and some food trucks. Without knowing the quality of any of these ingredients I can see an Italian Slow Food student throw up a little when looking at the menu. Its almost as if they kept adding items without ever removing anything. This is more of an observation than a complaint however. Americans in general love big menus. I don’t particularly care for them, but I can bare it, especially with a large group.
The result was a scene from Eat Drink Man Woman, something Anthony Bourdain and I share in common – our favorite food movie. Great food, a good time with the family, helped by a great wine list
As usual we shared a bunch of starters. A fine Prosciutto, figs, parmigiano platter from the Prosciutto section of the menu. Risotto Balls were especially popular, and so was one of the best Caponatas I’ve had in NYC. Normally, its a disappointing bland mess, but that wasn’t the case here. Mixed olives – I wouldn’t know. They were ordered by someone who’s rapper name would be “Dame Never Shares A lot.” Stuffed hot Cherry Peppers was the only early regret. Reminded me and everyone else on the table why I don’t care so much for Cherry peppers, and their taste buds altering ways. Bad idea in particular to have them right before the switch to a young but feisty 2010 Renato Ratti Barolo. The Caprese Salad here features the sweetest beefiest tomatoes you can possibly imagine in a Caprese salad, with Mozzarella as rich and thick as the accent of a young Vito Corleone. Note: This was one of 24 Insalatas one the menu. To further explain my “Slow Food” comment, at Da Roberto in Montisi in Tuscany, there is one salad on the menu on any given day.
Only 14 pastas on the menu. The Carbonara here is one of the specialties. It features the 3 “P” Pancetta, Smoked Pancetta & Prosciutto with an egg that you need to mix in on your own. It worked overall, quite enjoyable actually, but not as addictive as the more traditional one you can find in Lupa or Maialino. The Black Truffle Ricotta Ravioli certainly had its share of truffle aroma and flavor, unlike so many dishes out there with the word “truffle” in it. And just when you think you’ve eaten all the pasta shapes out there there’s a Trofie, Twisty, thin, chewy little noodles, a specialty of Genoa. This one featured more truffle juice (yes please), with peas and prosciutto. By the way, did you hear the horn? Alba white truffles season is upon us, and supplies are looking good so far. Then there was the good and basic Mike Tyson’s favorite, Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe & Fennel Sausage, and a Shrimp Spaghetti Fra Diavola consumed quickly by Dame Never Shares A lot
To find a memorable Secondi these days can be as tough as pronouncing Secondi correctly. One glance at the Pork Shank and two things come to mind.. Huge and dry. Nope! huge and juicy with sweet pleasant tones was the result, and enough of it to go around.
The desserts here were quite good. Highlighted by the Italian Beignets, Zeppole with Chocolate Sauce. Torta Cioccolata was on the dry side even for the kids. Panna Cotta with Berries and Biscotti di Mais was surprisingly delicate for a dry Panna Cotta. Tiramisu as a cake, not in a cup was a delight to the Dame. And a duo of Crème Brûlée & Bittersweet Chocolate Pudding was satisfying. Recommend!
240 W 14th
Recommended Dishes: Prosciutto, Risotto Balls, Caprese Salad, Ricotta Ravioli, Trofie, Carbonara, Pork Shank, Zeppole, Panna Cotta