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Spirito: Ninth St. Italian recently opened

famdoc May 4, 2007 09:16 PM

Spirito (287 9th St., between Fourth and Fifth Avenues), apparently open less than a week, features
Italian cuisine, with special inspiration from the Veneto region. We tried it this evening and here's a brief recap:

Occupying the space formerly occupied by the cryptically-named, now-deceased "Bistro Futura Moderne," this large space is decorated in Italian tile, stucco and framed photos of the homeland and a strategically placed Italian motorbike (is it a Ducati?). Soon to feature terrace dining on the second level, it also offers the opportunity for al fresco dining in good weather (the French doors in front open to the elements). A bar, which seats at least a dozen, lines the left hand side of the restaurant. Tables, comfortably spaced, seat at least another 40. Kitchen, viewable through a pass-through, is in the rear.

Menu consists of antipasti, pasta, primi piatti and secunda piatti. Each night, a piatti di giorno is offered and the risotto seems to change nightly.

Prices are $6-10 for antipasti, 10-16 for pastas and 12-20 for main courses.

Wines are offered by the glass and by the bottle, along with a full bar. Wine list is 100% Italian and is categorized by region, from Liguria in the North, to Sicily and Sardinia in the South...and every region in between.

Service was attentive and warm. As best as I could tell, the first language of all partners and wait staff is Italian. Our waiter had some difficulty understanding some of our questions and had some difficulty communicating the word "soup" in a fashion we could understand.

Our choices:
antipasti: sauteed mushrooms with polenta and grilled fish marinated and served with shaved beets.

pasta: cavatelli with tomato sauce, chunks of eggplant and freshly-shaved parmesan

primi piatti: bacala

The mushrooms were moist and well-seasoned. As best as I could tell, they were mostly criminis (baby portabellas). If there were other mushroom varieties in there, I couldn't find any. The polenta was done just right: firmly adherent, yet not dry. The fish appetizer was served warm (I thought it might be more tasty served hot) and the shaved beets excellent. You'll want to wipe your plate with some bread after finishing this one.

The sauce on the cavatelli was fresh and a bit piquant. Chunks of eggplant abounded. Served with freshly shaved parmesan.

The bacala was done well and was abundant. I think the bacala appetizer at Al di La edges this one by a bit.

Dinner for three, with two glasses of wine and a side of grilled veggies, was $90 before tip.

There is no need to offer the caveat regarding making judgments on newly-opened restaurants: the partners here are restaurant pros and very few, if any glitches were detected on this early visit.
Location is a ?...can a fine restaurant do well next to the Post Office, off the Fifth and Seventh Ave. centers of activity? I guess they're banking on the future of Fourth Ave., a future that seems to insure yet more development, foot and auto traffic.

  1. m
    mmm...food Jun 13, 2007 08:34 AM

    Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed review. My wife and I recently had dinner at Spirito and, unfortunately, were very disappointed.

    My wife had the eggplant caponata appetizer and the Sea Bass cooked in parchment. I had the green beans with the grilled tomino cheese and the pasta. The green beans were overcooked (reminded me of something I would get in a cafeteria) and the tomino cheese was far too strong for the dish and there was far too much of it (it was literally an entire wheel of a strong cheese - there was so much cheese that after I had finished my green beans and some of the cheese, the cheese was still in danger of overflowing from the dish) *note - I absolutely LOVE cheese so this is really strong criticism coming from me*. My pasta was very good, if a bit oversauced. The eggplant caponata was also overcooked and the taste of gorgonzola was dissonant. My wife's sea bass was extremely disappointing. The fish was stringy from being overcooked and completely underseasoned - pretty much inedible. Also, we ordered a very good bottle of white wine and it was not properly chilled (they did fix this when we asked for a bucket of ice).

    On the positive side, the service was very good (other than the wine) and the outside patio is romantic.

    On the whole a very disappointing experience, especially because we had such high hopes - we really wanted to like this place. We will not go back - with so many good Italian choices in the area it is hard to justify giving Spirito another shot.

    2 Replies
    1. re: mmm...food
      a
      artichokeheart Jun 13, 2007 10:28 AM

      My husband and I enjoyed Spirito so much that we went back again the week after we tried it! I'm so sorry hear a negative review of the place.

      On our first night we had the carpaccio with mango and the fritto misto of calamari and artichoke hearts, and we really enjoyed both of them. The ingredients were fresh and the combination of ingredients were interesting--especially the mango and prosciutto. On our second visit we tried the string bean with tomino cheese as well, and I agree that the beans were overpowered by the strong cheese. We also had the tuna tartare, which was very fresh and a little spicy. We stuck with the pastas on both of our visits, and were very happy with them. My husband loved the bucatini amatriciana and had it both nights; I went with the cavatelli with eggplant my first night and the orrechiette with lamb ragu the second. All the pastas were perfectly cooked. The warm chocolate cake we had for dessert was wonderful and cute, served in a little ceramic flower pot.

      I've posted a more extensive review on my blog (http://artichokeheart.wordpress.com/), but overall I really enjoyed Spirito, and am looking forward to going back.

      1. re: artichokeheart
        famdoc Jun 13, 2007 11:52 AM

        Try the above link without the end-parenthesis and comma.
        Thus:

        http://artichokeheart.wordpress.com/

        The presence of photos of food adds so much to food blogs...thanks.

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