Restaurant Name: Gradisca
Restaurant Location: 126 W. 13th Street, New York
Gradisca has been recommended to me many times from many sources, so it was with some excitement that I finally headed to the Village last Friday night to investigate its claims to greatness.
The first mark in the favor of this tucked-away little place was the genuinely warm welcome and great service we received.
We were given our pick of seats (even on a Friday night, the place never quite filled up), were tucked in with warm words and cold drinks, and were generally treated like old friends. As the evening progressed, the flow and rhythm of the arrival and departure of menus, drinks, and dishes was well-timed.
The food, also, was of sufficient quality, inventiveness, and flavor to allow the relaxation and comfort that derive from knowing you will be well-tended, satisfied (but not, I am sad to say, dazzled).
For our meal, I selected two choices from the appetizer list - requesting the Sashimi-grade Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with Avocado Mousse be served as my appetizer (a huge portion of glisteningly fresh tuna decked out with avocados and just the right dash of lemon). My husband went for the Prosciutto di Parma Gran Riserva served with Lardo Pesto and Fresh Tile-Baked Flat Buns. Each individual element of this dish was delectable, but none went especially well together.
For dinner, I had another appetizer, the Filet Mignon Carpaccio with Summer Black Truffle Cream Sauce. It was quite good (the presentation left a little to be desired, but the taste -- if you love truffles -- was nice). But, I had erred. Ordering two appetizers was not the problem--the portions were large enough to suffice. But I had ordered two *cold* appetizers. I couldn't help but regret my choice as I watched my husband work his way through a piping hot bowl of Fresh Cut Egg Pappardelle with Hand-Ground Lamb Ragu (very good but lacking in the spark needed to set it apart from the other lamb ragus of the world).
Dessert we shared -- Warm Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake with a Vanilla Cream. The small cake was the most like a dense fudge pudding of any of the ubiquitous "molten chocolate desserts" I've tried (perhaps too much?). The creme anglaise pool around it was a nice counterpoint, but the chocolate was so intense that it really did overwhelm everything else.
In all, we enjoyed this twinkling, cozy place and were happy to eat their well-prepared food....but not, I think, for the price. Gradisca serves great neighborhood fare (maybe even excellent for a local spot), but it is charging unreasonably high prices--the prices of a destination restaurant.
Our total bill was about $140 (this was, mind you, without wine...plus, I ordered two apps instead of an app and an entree and we shared dessert) and it should have been closer to $90-100. This may sound nit-picky, but in a city that offers such a wide array of choices, there is no sense in paying more when you can have the same quality of food for less. I suspect that if Gradisca charged just a little less for each item on their menu they would have no trouble filling all their charmingly rickety tables.
Maybe as the recession wears on, Gradisca will do just that and we will return.