Monday, December 15, 2008
Intimate Italian: Dell'anima in Greenwich Village
Restaurant Name: Dell'anima
Location: 38 8th Avenue, NYC
To celebrate our first six months of married life, my husband and I made a reservation at Dell'anima restaurant last Sunday night. After wandering contentedly through the "Second Lives" exhibit at the Museum of Art & Design (which we recommend!) and whisking along among the lighted trees lining the city's winter streets we had worked up a good appetite. Dell'anima satisfied our cravings and then some.
Like every restaurant we've eaten at lately (Casa Mono and Boqueria), Dell'anima (which means "of the soul") is an itty-bitty little place. The atmosphere is one of pleasant noise and clatter (the music and many conversations blending in and out of the sounds of pans ringing on the fiery burners of the stove in the open kitchen and the hiss and sizzle of many wonderful foods being prepared). If you like a hushed place where you whisper sweet nothings to each other, this might not be your spot. Even on a Sunday night, Dell'anima hops.
When we arrived our coats were whisked away and we were promptly seated at a narrow table in view of the open kitchen. (Eating at places where the table has to be pulled out so you can get to your seat also seems to be a theme in our restaurant adventures lately!). We were then left for a pleasant interlude to peruse the menu and eavesdrop on neighboring diners' conversations.
Having heard good things about the bruschetta spreads here, we opted for three spreads to start - the fresh ricotta with sea salt (pure, creamy, irresistible goodness), the chickpeas with preserved lemon (tart and addictive), and the rapini pesto with walnuts (perfectly spicy and olive-oily). These spreads were served as a trio with thick, crusty, crostini that was hot and just salty enough to be delicious with no spreads at all.
After another pleasant pause (during which were happy to be mesmerized by the frenetic action in the open kitchen) our main courses arrived. We had the Risotta alla Pilota (a lovely, light risotto flecked with small chunks of house-made sausage and salumi bound together with a flavorful stock enhanced with pecorino romano) and the Agnolotti (fresh tubes of pasta filled with sweet puree of delicata squash and swimming in a salty brown butter sauce with sage and hazelnuts). These were just fabulous; the pasta is all made in-house and it's very tender. The only complaint I could possibly muster would be that the butter sauce served with the Agnolotti was ever-so-slightly too salty (and I am an avowed salt fiend). But, otherwise everything was pretty perfect.
Though we were absolutely stuffed we felt obligated to try a dessert (after all, how could we write a good review if we hadn't at least tried one of every course! See the sacrifices we make for you, our readers?). Dell'anima is not a dessert-focused place. There were only two offerings - a flourless chocolate cake and an espresso-almond cake. Both were pre-prepared (though surely made on-site). We went for the chocolate cake. It was moist and flavorful but frankly was just good and not great. In the end, we decided to view this as good news: instead of wasting room on mediocre desserts, next time we can have more wine or try one of the great appetizers on offer.
In sum: yum! For three bruschetta spreads, two main courses, one dessert, and two glasses of wine we forked over $115 (including tip). Not at all bad for such great fare. Dell'anima is well worth a visit. Given how crowded the place was early on Sunday night, though, I'd suggest a reservation!