I have wanted to eat at Scarpetta in NYC ever since I saw Scott Conant on an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations (Techniques episode). His recipe for red sauce over fresh spaghetti was featured on the show. It was so elegant, so maddeningly simple, I needed to try it in person. We booked a late Sunday night reservation with a few friends and proceeded to order nearly the entire menu. Most of it we ate family style….except the spaghetti. That I ordered one just for myself.
Raw YellowTail – When it comes to raw fish, I generally avoid it if I am not in a sushi restaurant. Even at really great restaurants, it still tastes very fishy to me. The raw yellowtail at Scarpetta was excellent with no fishy aftertaste. The olive oil that it was paired with only highlighted the freshness of the fish; pickled red onion provided a nice crunchy counterpoint to the silkiness of the fish.
Creamy Polenta with fricasse of truffled mushrooms – I normally don’t order polenta. It’s a consistency and texture thing for me. To me, polenta is tasteless and textureless. I don’t mind fried polenta that looks like french fries, but the creamy kind. No, Thanks. I’ll pass. One of my tablemates politely insisted that we try it as she judges her Italian restaurants by how they prepare their polenta. One taste of polenta at Scarpetta explained that I have only ever had the bad or mediocre preparations of polenta. It had a creamy texture with no grittiness. There was a subtle flavor that was punctuated by the fricasse of truffled mushrooms that crowned the center of the dish. Great for a crisp fall / winter side dish. I could see this paring well with something like…..
Braised Short Rib with vegetable and farro risotto – Yum. So tender, you don’t need a knife to cut it. That’s how short rib should be done. The vegetable and farro risotto was an interesting accompaniment. Farro are wheat grains in whole form. Its cooked until tender, with a certain amount of firmness, lending itself well to a risotto style preparation. Scarpetta’s rendition was tasty, although I wish I had saved a little of the polenta to pair with the short rib sauce.
Scarpetta’s Signature Spaghetti – Plum tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, crushed red pepper, butter, Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese, basil. Six simple ingredients combined to make one killer dish. This was the dish that I came for. We each got our own portion as I refused to share my portion. The sauce reflects the freshness of the ingredients. It also had a velvety feel to it. I’m guessing that the added butter created this texture. Speaking with the sous chef, he said the most difficult thing about the dish is replicating the same flavor experience for every single diner that orders the dish. I guess that means I should be able to make this sauce at home. But I know it won’t be the same.
Roasted Beet Ravioli – From my childhood, roasted beets were those red, jello like vegetables that came from a can. As I’ve explored the food scene more and more, I’ve come to love this much maligned vegetable. Roasted beets has become one of my favorite dishes. (But I’ll never, ever eat beets from a can.) My preference is either plain roasted or topped with extra virgin olive oil and fresh goat cheese. It never occurred to me to use it as a filler for ravioli. Scarpetta uses the beets without any other additives in their roasted beet ravioli dish. The result is a luscious savory morsel with a hint of sweetness from the beet. Yum.
Duck Foie Gras Ravioli with marsala reduction – Foie Gras. There’s a ban on anything foie gras related in California. Something about the cruel and inhumane practice that creates this food product. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of foie gras, but once in a while, if it’s on a tasting menu, I’ll eat it. This small silken luxury, wrapped in fresh pasta dough was simply amazing. We shared one plate for the table; the tasting was enough for me. However, several of my tablemates admitted they could have finished the entire plate by themselves. So much for the poor goose…..
Ricotta Ravolini with white truffles – If the foie gras ravioli wasn’t decadent enough, we were then presented with the ricotta raviolini with white truffle shavings. The kitchen was very generous with the shavings on top. Good thing, because the raviolini itself wouldn’t have been anything interesting to write about if not for the delicate truffle shavings.
After the amazing rounds of pasta, we were onto the entrees. The lardo wrapped halibut was very well cooked. Crispy on the outside, moist and flaky on the inside. It seemed a little salty to me, but the rest of my tablemates didn’t feel the same way. The ash crusted venison was a departure from the norm for us. I’ve had venison when I was younger. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of it. It’s very lean and sometimes gamey, depending on how well its prepared. If i’m going to have a red meat alternative, I think I would stick with buffalo or ostrich, rather than Rudolph. This venison was very well cooked and didn’t have a strong gamey taste. The ash created a very light crust with a unique flavor. Combined with the venison, it made for an interesting taste and texture. I had one piece and left the rest for the carnivores at the table.
With nearly all Italian restaurants, I always feel like I should stop after the pasta course. The secondi piatti at Scarpetta are very, very good, but their pasta overshadows them. Next time I’ll just stick to ordering everything off of the pasta menu. I’ll definitely be coming back here.
355 West 14th Street
New York, NY 10014