Love and Human Remains

Restaurant Review: Scarpetta

Haute-Italian fare in a Greek Revival townhouse

Chef Scott Conant’s Scarpetta, a haute-Italian restaurant in a brick Greek Revival townhouse, sits perilously close to New York’s uber-trendy meatpacking district—but don’t let that stop you from venturing into its tastefully woody confines. The waiting list for reservations is three weeks, which is a little shocking in this dodgy economy and an indication that Conant’s exemplary offerings are worth it.

I went to dinner with a couple of friends, and we sampled seasonal menu items that were a sensuous experience on the tongue—a signature Conant touch. We dove into the evening with Grey Goose vodka martinis that were shaken and served at our table. The wait staff were attentive, but not in our faces—just the right mix of concern and nonchalance.

Conant’s food philosophy is all about taste, and his varied creations don’t disappoint. We started with raw yellowtail tuna drizzled with olive oil and flaked sea salt: I didn’t think fish could melt in your mouth, but this delectable amuse-bouche proves it can. That was followed by one of the chef’s classics, a creamy polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms slathered in milk, cream and Parmesan cheese. It went down like ambrosia. The pasta course of farfalle with wild mushrooms, escarole and black winter truffle was another hit.

Our subsequent courses weren’t for the faint of heart (literally). The duck and foie gras ravioli partnered with a Marsala reduction was a little heavy on the wine for my taste, but the slow-roasted lobster with roasted sunchokes, mushrooms and uni emulsion was a standout, as was the pork tenderloin with mustard spaetzle, pork belly and butternut squash. (A “vegetariano” list is available for those mortified by the meaty menu.)

This gustatory debauchery was accompanied by a bottle of Roero 2008, a medium-bodied red from Italy’s Piemonte region. Scarpetta’s wine selection isn’t outrageously expensive considering the exquisite care that shapes every morsel of food.

Our two desserts, mainstays on the menu, were outstanding: Amedei chocolate cake zapped with burnt orange-caramel gelato and espresso sauce, and a coconut panna cotta resting in a guava soup with caramelized pineapple.

Attesting to the chef’s talent for teasing complex flavors from every ingredient, branches of Scarpetta can be found in Beverly Hills, Toronto, Miami and Las Vegas.

Scarpetta 355 W. 14th St., New York, NY 10014, 212-691-0555, scottconant.com.

Appetizers, $15 to $21; pasta, $22 to $27; entrees, $26 to $40; desserts, $11.

 

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