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Jan 30, 2001 09:58 AM

Tappo-new Mediterranean in E. Village

  • j

We went to Tappo (cork in Italian, according to the sous chef), a new Mediterranean restaurant on the corner of 12th St. and 1st Ave. (entrance slightly east of 1st ave. on 12th st.) after watching the construction for several weeks. Last night was the opening night, so the staff was eager and slightly disorganized. They said the chef was from Rome and the sous chef had spent some time at Il Buco. The place is decorated to look like an Italian farmhouse with antique wooden tables and exposed brick-easy to forget that you are on a particularly unattractive block of 1st Avenue. The menu consists of about 15 appetizers, some written in English, others in Spanish and Italian. The entrees were recited verbally, as they change daily. We were told that all the fish is flown in from the Mediterranean (happily, not the meat). The entrees I can remember: a whole dorade with artichokes, a grilled baby chicken, rack of lamb,a risotto and 3 interesting sounding pasta-one was with wild mushrooms.

As we were recovering from the Super Bowl festivities the night before, we went with 4 appetizers to share between the two of us: Thinly sliced grilled filet mignon with mushrooms, mackeral tartare with arugula salad, skewered sweetbreads with tomato and zucchini and grilled whole baby octopus on top of tabouleh. The verdict: except for mediocre bread and the octopus, which seemed to not belong with the tabouleh and was slightly rubbery, everything we had was very good. There was obviously a lot of care put into the preparation and presentation. We also had an excellent Rioja that was available by the glass (so much for recovering!) They also threw in on the house one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever had-warm, dense with whipped cream and berries, biscotti and dessert wine. Can't wait to go back to try the whole fish!

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  1. Full disclosure: I am very close to some backers of this place. And I'm not going to comment on the service, because it became obvious to us that someone figured out we had a connection to the place.

    I had been eager to try Tappo since attending an opening party, where I enjoyed the bits of food and sips of wine I sampled. On the other hand, I dreaded going and not liking it and having to tell my good friends that their baby wasn't working. Finally bit the bullet last night,and had a really very, very good dinner there. The decor is lovely and although the room we were seated in is quite large, the lighting, candles and vases of roses and tulips give it a cozy feel. Bread is, as mentioned above,merely ok. We ordered fresh pea soup, which was delicious, with a smoky hint of bacon; radicchio, blood orange and pecorino salad with a slightly sweet vinaigrette--this sweetness might normally bother me but I thought it a good foil for the bitter radicchio; a plain green salad, not on the menu but graciously produced at the request of one of our party (at this point I don't think they knew we had any connection to the place); the seared filet mignon over sauteed mushrooms--I did not taste this but my friends loved it; raviolini stuffed with herbed ricotta, served with a sage butter sauce and topped with shaved pecorino and black truffles--this was very fine indeed, the pasta light and lightly stuffed (we were told the chef's wife makes all the pastas daily) and the serving of truffles generous. Cappucino was alright, not great, and not hot enough.

    Tappo has an extensive wine list--pages and pages, including wines from Cyprus and Greece. We ordered by the glass, and tried a Scopeto Chianti Classico, big, dry and a bit overwhelming for what I was eating, an El Somo Muriel Rioja--very good, an Albarino--okay, but I think a lot of Albarinos are a little thin as was this one, and the fave wine of the evening, a Pecorari Sauvignon Blanc--beautiful fruit but not too sweet, very nice indeed. We, along with all other tables around us, were served moscato on the house at the end of the meal. These wines ranged from $6 a glass for the Albarino to $9 for the chianti and the sauvignon blanc. Soup was $8, salads $7, mains $12-$18. The people at the next table were happily tearing into roast suckling pig with garlic and fennel that looked and smelled divine. As mentioned above,there is a set menu of small plates (some of which, like the filet mignon dish, are substantial) and a daily menu of special appetizers, mains and pastas.

    My companions were two good friends who I know would have told me if they did not care for anything. Both are fairly high-maintenance, picky eaters and one is a caterer with a great deal of food knowledge and I might add good taste. They both loved it, as did I, and I truly believe that I have bent over backwards here to be as impartial as possible. Would love to hear any other impressions.