Abbottega, a New York
outpost of the Milanese original, has been operating on Bedford Street in Manhattan’s trendy West Village neighborhood for the last year. When I first heard of the place, it seemed not quite in-sync with what is otherwise a rather upscale contemporary dining location; previously, that same location housed the restaurant Quinto Quarto, also Italian, which resonated with the likes of Blue Ribbon down the block.
So, on a cool weekend morning, I decided to take stock of the eatery to see what this new addition had to offer and, whether it would survive the scrutiny of its better-heeled neighbors. As I walked in, the décor (nearly) transported me back to the rustic Italian bottegas that I had had the pleasure of dining in in Florence and Tuscany. Brightly painted in white and offset by wooden beams with an exposed brick façade, the décor is appropriately rustic.
What one cannot avoid noticing upon entering is a life-size framed portrait of a lady dressed in ‘30s American country apparel proffering a plate accompanied by a beaming smile. She turned out to be the inspiration for the restaurant’s menu and the grandmother of the owner, and she sets the tone of the dining experience.
Abbottega claims to follow and present the pure traditions of the Italian bottega, where diners can indulge in the cuisines and products of Lazio, Umbria, and Tuscany. The recipes used in the restaurant are based on a collection that has been passed down in the family, fine-tuned by executive chef Luigi Rana, who, along with the front of house staff, relocated from Milan to ensure the authenticity of the restaurant.
In tasting several items on the menu, the common thread I perceived was their presentation of traditional dishes that have been given a creative, modern twist. My favorite item on the menu is the lombrichelli al pomodoro fresco, an eggless hand-rolled pasta tossed in a simple tomato sauce and generously topped with fried basil. The pasta is thick and has a satisfying bite that when married with a simple sauce is rather evocative of the restaurant’s culinary philosophy. Other dishes I would recommend are the steak tartare, bombolotti alla gricia, and for dessert, definitely the tiramisu. It was the lightest tiramisu I have tasted in the city and I may even go so far as to call it the best in New York.
With its value-priced menu, generous portions, and flavorful execution, Abbottega is a place to frequent if you’re in the neighborhood. Here one can simply enjoy down-home European hospitality, which, in its essence, is good food with great company.