551 Hudson St
(between Perry St & 11th St)
New York, NY 10014
“We are fully committed but you are welcome to eat at the bar” was the answer I got when I just assumed there would be a table available for 2 at this new restaurant that opened 6 weeks ago, on a cold February Wednesday night. At the bar also means in the kitchen where there are some ringside seats for watching the action in the kitchen. Interestingly as I have reported, there are many new French, Italian and beyond restaurants opening the neighborhood. Not sure of the economics here but a good bit new and in this case, very good things are happening in food!
Spasso means fun and amusement in Italian, and indeed it was very lively and not quiet, filled with children, George Capsis would say. Children, who work downtown, pay a good bit of rent in the west village and help nourish the economy. Matter of fact, Wall Street in this case is more directly helping Main Street, which needs to happen more around the country but we enjoy it here. Spasso’s genealogy is part dell’ anima and L’Artusi, where Bobby Werhane – managing partner, worked previously, with the current sibling restaurant Choptank. Craig Wallen the chef, worked previously with Michael White – Convivio and Mario Batoli – Lupa, making him trained by the best Italian food maestros in our city. The setting is rustic and pleasant, in a location that previously was Alfama, and many before that. A location that has not been lucky but Spasso may just be the right ticket!
Stracciatelli, featured on the Spasso blog with a recipe, was one of our three appetizers. It is a variation on Mozzarella but “fresher” softer, and with more butter fat. Basically it is a freshly made cheese using curd that is softened, pulled and steeped with heavy cream, served with green extra virgin olive oil, good salt and crusty toasted bread – simply good! Grilled octopus, with yogurt, cucumber and mint lived up to an older, sometimes cynical Greek gentleman’s expectation – George you know who I am speaking about. Crispy Arancini with ricotta and tomato, no rice, was a very pleasant way to eat eggplant, nice crispy texture and supple eggplant flavor.
The menu is broken down into boxes that include Meats and Cheeses, Pesce and Vendure antipasti ($9 to 15), Primi – Pasta ($15-20), Secondi ($22- 29) and Contorni – side dishes, allowing you many options. You can eat more simply without spending too much which I think the restaurant looks to offer but it is easy “to go to town” based on the enticing menu. We had the Macceroni die Busa, with a pork ragu, goat cheese and fennel fronds. Tightly woven pasta shells in a rustic, rich, flavored sauce with a nice spoonful of soft goat cheese. This dish has a reference to “nonna,” I would say you would be quite lucky if grandma served this. The service was very good, with young helpful waters that had a good share of passion for the food. Recommended was a Trout Saltimbocca, an unusual dish that was a prosciutto-wrapped piece of moist and gently but nicely flavored fish in a sage flavored butter sauce. We also get the Cauliflower Caponata, which used crafty cauliflower in a more inspired way; it had a good savory quality along with some white raisons for sweetness.
Dessert included a chocolate, salt and caramel tart which rode the caramel salt trend nicely. An apple tart that included layers of spiced, nicely flavored apples was a good counterpoint; it was less about sweetness and more about spice. An Italian wine list that included Traditional and “Surprising” wines was extensive and well composed. A manager helped us select a not too dry, full-bodied red wine named on our receipt, de Leonardis, which was an excellent value at $38.
All this said, means that the young are enjoying better food, paying for it and you should call ahead and go!