As I mentioned in my post about Del Posto, Lidia Bastianich is my favorite chef. I’ve been watching her since I was little because I didn’t have cable growing up and there was nothing on regular TV on Sundays after church. The only thing that interested me were the cooking shows on PBS. As a result, every Sunday I’d sit down and watch Lidia, Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, Martin Yan, and others.
I really didn’t know much about food growing up because I always ate Chinese food at home, and if we went out to eat it was either to a Chinese restaurant, Pizza Hut, or Burger King. So aside from Yan Can Cook, all the food on these shows seemed very exotic and foreign to me but I loved watching the process of cooking. I would then experiment with random recipes I found in one of the cookbooks we had in the house, substituting for ingredients that we didn’t have. For example, I once made brownies using Nestle Quik, figuring that it was close enough to cocoa powder. The resulting brownies weren’t as chocolately as I would have liked, but they actually weren’t bad either.
Over the recent years I’ve tried to expand both my palate and my cooking abilities. I’m still a pretty bad baker but now I watch cooking shows to get ideas of things to make and different flavor combinations to try. I still have a soft spot for PBS cooking shows and vastly prefer them to the ones on the Food Network that have very little actual cooking involved. Lidia’s Italy is one of my favorites, and every time she makes a pasta, my mouth waters. Even the simplest pasta, with just oil, garlic, and tomatoes, loosened with a little pasta water to make a sauce, looks absolutely delectable.
Thus, it is only fitting that Becco is my favorite restaurant. I always get the same thing – the unlimited tasting of the three pastas of the day. The offerings vary daily but there is always one with a simple tomato-basil sauce. I’ve tasted enough of them to have my preferences but I get really excited when I see a pasta that I haven’t had before at the restaurant.
Josh knows how much I love Lidia and Becco so the restaurant has become our go-to special occasion place. We’ve celebrated birthdays and anniversaries here, as well as a few pre-theater dinners with family. Once in a while though, if we happen to be drinking at the House of Brews next door, we’ll go for an impromptu dinner if the wait isn’t too long. Prices are reasonable enough that it’s not a complete splurge but it’s still a once-in-a-while indulgence.
So on one Friday evening after happy hour at the House of Brews, we decided to grab dinner with Josh’s cousin at Becco. Luckily the pre-theater crowd had already thinned out so we didn’t have to wait for a table. The restaurant is split into lots of different rooms and tables are packed closely together but it still has a pretty intimate setting. The noise volume is chatty but not too loud so you can hold conversations without having to scream.
Tasty assortment of olives
Our meal started off with a box of delicious breads, a pureed bean spread doused in olive oil, and a bowl of assorted olives.
Soft focaccia, crunchy grissini, and crusty italian bread
The breads included a soft focaccia, a crusted rustic loaf, and thin, crunchy grissini, all perfect for dipping into the creamy bean spread.
Creamy white bean and olive oil dip
Another aspect that makes Becco more affordable is the $25 wine list. It consists of Italian wines and there are lots of reds and whites to choose from, as well as a few rose wines and sparkling wines. We’ve tried several of the reds and found most of them to be pretty good, though now we stick with our favorite, the Ramitello. It’s full-bodied and a little bit spicy on the tongue, which I like a lot. But if you’re unsure about which wine to order, just ask. Someone is always happy to help answer your questions and offer suggestions based on the kind of wine you typically prefer.
When you order the pasta tasting, it comes with a choice of Caesar salad or the antipasto misto. The Caesar salad has a creamy dressing that is not too mayo-y. Fortunately they don’t overdress the leaves but I always get a bit annoyed by how the runners just haphazardly dump some on the plate in front of you from the big platter they’re carrying. I guess it’s faster than preparing individual plates of Caesar salad but it always ends up being sloppily presented and the portions are never consistent. That said, it’s still a pretty good version of Caesar salad.
Caesar salad with creamy dressing
The antipasto misto comes with an assortment of vegetables and seafood that has been grilled or marinated. It’s a nice variety and a good way to taste lots of different things. The vegetables include zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, string beans, beans, and sun dried tomatoes. They’re pretty basic but have a nice tangy flavor and are well seasoned.
Marinated and roasted vegetables
The seafood included a soft white fish in a light tomato sauce, and marinated octopus with potatoes and onions. The octopus was soft, tender, and delicious.
The marinated seafood portion of the antipasto misto
After they cleared away our appetizer plates, the pasta feast began. I was happy to see that there were two pasta this time that I hadn’t tried before. The first was an artichoke ravioli served in a light broth. The artichoke filling was creamy with little chunks of artichoke inside, and it was topped with fresh chopped herbs. It was tasty and light and my favorite pasta dish of the night.
The second new pasta for me was farfalle with shrimp and arugula. The pasta was obviously fresh and hand pinched into the bowtie shapes, which I thought was really neat. The shrimp were tender and the arugula gave it a nice slightly bitter bite. This was also a very light dish.
Fresh farfalle pasta with shrimp and arugula
The last pasta was the standard tomato-basil sauce. Although the pasta shapes may vary (this time it was spaghetti), the sauce is always simple and classic. You really taste the freshness of the tomato sauce, and I love the large basil leaves mixed throughout.
Spaghetti with classic tomato-basil sauce
For dessert, we shared the torte di zabaglione e cioccolato, which was a chocolate mousse cake topped with sour cherries. It was smooth and rich, and, of course, very chocolately. It was a nice way to end the meal.
Chocolate mousse cake
I know that I can’t give a full review of Becco since I order the pasta tasting every single time we go. So I don’t know much about the other food served at the restaurant, though I do remember that once when we went with a large group on my birthday, Sean had a grilled branzino (his name was Panchito) that he enjoyed a lot. All I can say is that the pastas are always fantastic and served perfectly al dente. Plus you can eat as much as you want; there are servers circulating the rooms carrying big pans of pasta and they stop by often to ask if you want more.
Although the service itself is sometimes a bit sloppy, they don’t rush you out even when the restaurant is packed. We’ve lingered over wine at the table and were made to feel perfectly at ease. Overall, at $22.95 for the Caesar salad or antipasto misto and unlimited servings of three different pastas, it’s a pretty good deal. Just make sure to call ahead for a reservation if you have a large party, or if you plan on going during the pre-theater rush.
355 West 46th St. between 8th and 9th Ave.
New York, NY