Posts Tagged ‘Greenwich Village’

Rocco Ristorante

Thursday, March 24th, 2011 by virginia

Rocco Ristorante is an old school Italian joint down in the Village that’s been around for years. It has become one of our more standard destinations for Sunday night dinner with the family, as the restaurant serves solid food at pretty reasonable prices. The atmosphere is warm and homey, with lots of pictures hanging on the wall with all of the famous people who have dined there.

Our meal always starts with a round of bruschetta on the house. Thick slices of toasted Italian bread are covered with chopped tomato, a little bit of chopped onion, some garlic, basil, and a healthy dose of olive oil. It’s a simple dish but always perfectly seasoned and delicious.

Tomato bruschetta

The regular bread is decent, though it’s better when served warm. It has a somewhat crispy crust but the insides are a bit dense. I like the chewiness though, and it’s slightly sweet, perfect for slathering with salty butter.

Bread basket

Josh and I went halfsies on a caesar salad and the beef carpaccio. The menu says that the caesar is served for two, but they never give us any problems when we order for just one person. The dressing is really well prepared, creamy but not gloppy or overwhelming. I like the homemade croutons, which add a nice garlicky crunch.

Caesar salad

The beef carpaccio is a huge portion of thinly sliced raw beef on top of a bed of arugula. There are big chunks of shaved parmesan cheese on top, which I love. It’s lightly dressed with just a little olive oil and salt, and I always squeeze some lemon over the top and get a nice crank of freshly ground black pepper. The beef always tastes fresh and slightly sweet, pairing perfectly with the salty parmesan, bitter arugula, and tangy lemon juice.

Beef carpaccio

Linguine with white clam sauce is one of Josh’s favorite dishes, and they prepare it very well at Rocco. The pasta is always al dente, and there are lots of big, juicy clams scattered on top, still in their shells. The sauce is heavy on the garlic, which we enjoy, but is still light and not overly greasy. The flavor of the clams definitely takes center stage.

Linguine with white clam sauce

I usually get the chicken parmesan but on this particular evening, I decided to go with the veal. Both renditions are very good, with thick cutlets pounded out a bit and nicely breaded and fried. There’s lots of mozzarella cheese melted on top, and the red sauce is definitely a high point – sweet and tangy. I actually don’t have a preference between the chicken and the veal. Both are flavorful in their own way, and the meat is always tender. I just wish the restaurant would serve the dish with a side of pasta instead of the boring, mushy, buttery vegetables (carrots and zucchini this time) that come on the plate.

Veal parmesan

We don’t always get dessert but we’ve tasted the tiramisu before, which is always good. The zabaglione with fresh strawberries, however, is incredible. The zabaglione is thick, creamy, and rich, not too overpowering with alcohol flavor, and goes perfectly with sweet strawberries. Josh’s sister was tempted to lick the bowl clean, that’s how delicious it was.

Overall we always leave Rocco full and satisfied. The food is uncomplicated but solid Italian fare. The menu has all of the classic dishes, and nothing is ever a surprise. They have a great red sauce, which is important for any Italian restaurant. Service is always warm and accommodating, and the atmosphere is low key. I’m sure the restaurant will continue to be a part of our Sunday night tradition.

Rocco Ristorante
181 Thompson St. between Houston and Bleecker St.
New York, NY


Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I are fans of brunch but we’re not big fans of the stereotypical “brunch scene.” We prefer low key places, preferably with cheap drink specials, that serve reliably good food. We also don’t wake up that early on weekend mornings so having a place that serves brunch late is also important. Occasionally, however, when we go out with a large group of people, we end up going to brunch places we normally wouldn’t attempt on a typical weekend. Such was the case when we were in a group of nine and tried to get a table at Jane in Greenwich Village during prime Sunday brunch hours.

In our defense, we had made a reservation for brunch knowing full well what the scene is like there. In their defense, half our party showed up late. However, they kept us waiting for well over an hour after that, and it didn’t appear that our table would have been ready at the designated reservation time regardless of whether or not everyone showed up on time. To make matters worse, it was pouring rain and there really is no space to wait inside the restaurant. There’s an awning outside but that was packed with people as well. Our table finally freed up, and we were led downstairs away from the main dining room. I honestly didn’t mind because it was a bit quieter downstairs and the tables are further apart.

We were pretty fed up at this point and quickly ordered a round of drinks. Josh and I both got bloody marys, and Jane makes one of the best versions that I’ve had. It’s tangy and spicy with lots of horseradish mixed in, and packs a decent alcoholic punch.

Spicy bloody marys

Next we attacked the bread basket while we looked over the menu. There were pieces of a crusty Italian bread, a cranberry and walnut wheat bread, and some peppery crispy crackers. The bread came with a sweet strawberry butter that I really enjoyed slathered on everything.

Basket of bread and sweet strawberry butter

Josh and I went halfsies on our entrees, choosing one from the “brunch” section of the menu and one from the “lunch” section. First was the Benedict Jane, which was poached eggs on crab and crawfish cakes with spinach and tarragon hollandaise. The eggs were poached pretty well, still runny on the inside, and the crab and crawfish cakes were pretty tasty. I also liked that it wasn’t drowning in hollandaise sauce, since we forgot to get it on the side. The accompanying roasted potatoes were pretty bad though, limp, soggy, and greasy.

Benedict Jane

Our lunch entree was the BLT & E, which was bacon, lettuce, tomato, and a sunny side up egg on a ciabatta roll with lemon aioli. The sandwich was absolutely fantastic, and exactly what I hope for in a BLT & E. The egg was nice and runny and the bacon was crispy. The lemon aioli really brightened up all the flavors. The accompanying rosemary fries were thin and crispy – way better than the sad roasted potatoes.

BLT & E - how good does that look?

While the food at Jane is passable for the most part, I still can’t get over how crowded it is during brunch and how long the wait is for a table, even with a reservation. The restaurant is packed to the brim and incredibly noisy, making it hard to carry on a conversation.  It’s also on the pricier side for brunch, with most options hovering around the $15-$16 dollar mark, although that does include one brunch drink (lunch items don’t include a drink). Additional drinks will cost you though, $12 for specialty cocktails and $11 for champagne cocktails. While I love the bloody marys they serve, the atmosphere and the wait is really hard for me to deal with. It’s worth checking out once in a while but it’s definitely not somewhere we frequent. I definitely recommend trying to get a reservation, and hopefully, they’ll keep it.

100 West Houston St. between Thompson St. and LaGuardia Pl.
New York, NY

Otto Enoteca and Pizzeria

Monday, June 14th, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I spent one Saturday afternoon perusing the vegetables at the Union Square Greenmarket and then wandered southward in search of a late lunch. We tossed back and forth several different options but couldn’t decide, until we hit Washington Square Park and realized we were just around the corner from Otto.

We had eaten at Otto one time previously, on a Sunday night with Josh’s family, but that was a few years ago. Pizza sounded good to both of us so we headed in. It was that weird time between lunch and dinner so there were plenty of tables available in the restaurant, but it was also surprisingly crowded given the late/early hour. We settled down and munched on some slices of rustic peasant bread and grissini while we looked over the menu. The grissini are pre-packaged but the bread had a thick, chewy crust and a nice slight sourdough flavor to it. Make sure to ask for some fruity olive oil to dip the bread in.

Bread and grissini

Although Otto has wonderful pasta, Josh and I were both in the mood for pizza so we decided to split two pies. The hardest part was deciding which ones to get, because there are lots of options to choose from. We ended up picking a classic margherita and a mushroom pie with taleggio cheese. We also decided to share a roasted brussels sprout antipasti that was perfectly cooked, nicely tangy, and not too bitter.

Brussels sprout antipasti

The pizzas at Otto have a super thin crust that are surprisingly still a bit chewy, not like the cracker thin bar pies. The pizzas aren’t huge, but they’re not tiny either. Someone with a somewhat hearty appetite could finish one pie by him/herself.

Margherita D.O.P.

The margherta d.o.p. looked beautiful, as it was covered in a brilliantly colored red sauce, neat little dollops of buffalo mozzarella, and bright green basil leaves, but I thought there was too much sauce and not enough cheese. The cheese was surprisingly creamy, not stringy, with a noticeable gaminess to its flavor.

Lots of sauce, a little cheese

The crust was a golden brown on the bottom, but not burnt (I hate super dark brown spots), and crackly on the outer edge.

Underside shot

The mushroom and taleggio pizza gave off an incredible earthy scent. There was no sauce on the pie but it was completely covered in mushrooms, with the cheese melted underneath. Fresh parsley leaves topped it all off.

Funghi & Taleggio

The taleggio had a buttery flavor that paired perfectly with the mushrooms. I loved how savory it tasted, and it was a nice departure from the typical pizza.

Lots of mushrooms and parsley

While Josh and I both think that the pizza at Otto isn’t as good as some other places (like Lombardi’s), it’s a really well done gourmet pie at a very reasonable price. In fact, the entire menu is very affordable, not something you would expect from a Mario Batali restaurant. The vegetable antipasti are only $4 each, salads are just $8, pastas are $9, and pizzas range from $7-$14. There’s a lot to choose from and everything is freshly prepared. The restaurant is quite large with multiple rooms, and nice warm atmosphere. There’s also a spacious bar area in front, perfect for having some wine and nibbling on some meat and cheese antipasti platters. There are also lots of sorbets and gelatos available for dessert, including my personal favorite, olive oil gelato. This is definitely a place worth checking out.

Otto Enoteca and Pizzeria
1 Fifth Ave. at 8th St.
New York, NY