For the two years spent in East Village, I was bound by some unknown gravitation swaying my path away from the border of 1st avenue and alphabet city. Looking back, it most likely was because the end of the Manhattan L train to me marked the end of civilization as I knew it. A mere year later, entrenched in the rat race, I welcomed a chance to roam the old neighborhood, even if it was a couple avenues off of where I was used to–today, I brave Avenue B for Spina.
Fortune favors the bold. I walk in and was rewarded with the sight of freshly made pasta. Out front, there was no fooling anyway with anything short of grade A fresh. These were not made by elves in the back or by machines in some god forsaken corner of the world. Ascertained of that, I sat down ready to be impressed.
The first dishes certainly did just that. The first was meatball, a holy trinity of pork, beef, and veal. With the requisite marinara and Parmesan it was pleasantly light and went well with beer and wine equally swimmingly–old world or new. We also had at the table also a winter salad, a show stopper which I can only hope didn’t leave the menu with the season. Artfully proportioned with pumpkin seeds, cranberries, Parmesan apples, and avocado, every bite either marries the components or stuns with the strength of a select few. A wonderfully variable yet cohesive salad, proving to myself yet again that I can in fact, be an omnivore.
Another opening nosh was the wild mushroom polenta. Rich with jus, shrooms, and goat cheese, this dish just sidestepped the entree category. Appropriately portioned, this was a wonderfully savory start, and with the crisp of the winter salad, we were very much whetted for the next round.
The entrees for us came in a tasting trio. With the only shortfall being the demure portions we were faced with. The first was the Black Pepper Pappardelle, paired with wild boar, rosemary, and a gem called the barberry. Favored throughout the Eurasian peoples, this berry is subtle, but does add a certain tartness that works well with the boar. Of course, the handmade pasta stands its ground despite its well stocked dance card.
The next pasta up was the Basil Malfati. Malfati, meaning poorly made, hardly detracts for the substance of the plate. This deconstructed mess of eggplant, smoked tomato sauce, confit garlic, and ricotta is a flavorful knockout. The smokiness commands the theme, but then manifests in the eggplant in a most powerful manner.
Finally, our meal concludes with the Malloreddus, a saffron infused gnocchi. The veal and pork combination make an appearance without it’s third partner in crime, but again, this dish makes me salute the pasta markers in the corner, whatever witchcraft is going on–it’s working.
No dessert this time, but already, the 6 thought provoking dishes are enough to tempt me back. This is the kind of spot that makes me regret not venturing further beyond the vertical of the L’s last Manhattan stop. Definitely a place worth going to, and as many reviewers have said already in the interwebs, far too underrated and undiscovered.
From the Notepad: The meal was compliments of the restaurant. Though it did not affect our opinion, nor were we required to write. The wine list here is a formidable match for the food, with a sommelier who digs the Finger Lakes like we do!
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175 Avenue B
New York, NY 10009