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Great meal at Bar Stuzzichini

m
mr_seabass Jun 17, 2007 06:41 PM

Last night four of us tried Bar Stuzzichini. We started with two mezze platters (5 tasters per platter). The octopus was extremely tender, and a definite stand out - fantastic. The fried artichokes were delicious too. The meat balls, sardine ceviche, buffalo mozzarela, sopressato and egg plant were all tasty.

We then followed this up with two pastas betwee the four of us. The fresh pea one was great, but the real winner of the evening was a pistachio and lemon tagliateli. It was unique, and it worked.

This was followed by two portions of their lamb chop special which we all loved. Our friends thought they were better than the lamb chops at Bella Vitae. I think the jury is out on this, but they were really good nonetheless.

Deserts (olive oil cake, home made ice creams, and capri cake) were high quality.

The meal, plus wine and tip was $130 per couple - very reasonable given the quality of the meal. We spent almost three hours enjoying the food and ambiance. Well worth trying out. My favorites remain A Voce and Bella Vitae, but this was a great meal in a relaxed, quiet setting, with service which was well paced and knowledgable.

  1. BaconBits Jun 17, 2007 07:07 PM

    How was the crowd? Was there a crowd at all? I really like this place - but it's always empty. I worry it's days are numbered.

    1 Reply
    1. re: BaconBits
      m
      mr_seabass Jun 17, 2007 08:23 PM

      It was probably only 1/3 full. I hope more people listen to us, visit and appreciate it.

    2. b
      Boswell Jun 18, 2007 06:09 AM

      I went there last Thursday, and found it mostly very good. My friend and I each ordered 5 small dishes. Artichokes, clams, ricotta with truffle honey, arancini, all excellent. Meatballs were dry and dull I thought. Prawn was good, but if I'd ordered it a la carte and gotten one little shrimp for $7, I would have been annoyed. The 5 dishes for $22 is a pretty good deal, but the portions are a little small for the a la carte prices.

      We then shared gnocchi with guanciale. Again excellent, and a generous portion even when split for two. Wines by quartino are well priced for a generous pour.

      The place was about 1/3 full when I went there too, but it's a cavernous place, would take a lot of people to fill it.

      1. p
        psp Jun 19, 2007 08:32 AM

        i've posted a similar remark on another thread. i think the food here is terrific. sat at the bar with a friend and we started off with the stuzzichini ... wow! buttery tender octopus with crunchy thinly sliced celery, perfectly fried artichokes (i could have eaten a dozen), beautifully flavored chickepas on toast ... and for the main, who knew: the perfect chicken. i *never* order chicken but was tipped off about this one and came away a convert. couple all this with a well chosen and good value wine list and it's hard to fault. while the atmosphere isn't exactly my style, food conquers all.

        1 Reply
        1. re: psp
          d
          djk Jun 19, 2007 11:10 AM

          went a couple weeks ago and thought it was really good - tried pretty much everything already mentioned and also loved the pasta with pistachios and lemon, the ocotopus, artichokes, chick pea bruschetta, sardine etc etc. don't love the decor and the wine list was not fantastic but more was going to be added soon. service was excellent and really - so was the food.

        2. jakew8 Jun 21, 2007 07:11 AM

          Ate here on a Wednesday night--place was 1/3 full. Perhaps it's just too big.

          Mixed apps:
          Green olives--excellent, not too salty
          Sopressato--no problem there
          Fried meatballs--good
          Ricotta with honey--very good; went well w/ the olives of all things
          Some eggplant relish on toast--too heavy for me but my girlfriend liked it

          Swordfish with pesto--nice, but couldn't tell that it was actually swordfish and not some other whitefish

          Special: Spaghetti with octopus and cherry tomato sauce--awesome; seems like reading the other posts here they always do octopus well.

          The service was well-meaning but needs improvement. Perhaps our waiter was a new guy. The pacing of the dishes was fine but they need to have a few busy nights to work the kinks out of the front and back of house. (Maybe they are busy on the weekends but I've never seen it.)

          We asked for the driest prosecco on the list and it was fine, especially for $35 or whatever. Total was $115, inclusive. We'll be back.

          1. g
            gfrank Jun 21, 2007 07:59 AM

            We were the friends along for this meal. It was seriously great! In addition to the comments, I just have to add something about the service - it was really good. Knowledgeable, humorous, present but not intrusive. (An English gentleman was our waiter).
            BTW my wife is still commenting about how unique and good the pistachio pasta was. Definitely give that a try.

            3 Replies
            1. re: gfrank
              c
              clashfan Jun 28, 2007 06:00 AM

              I went there last night and had a very enjoyable meal. There were two of us and we ordered the chickpea crostini, eggplant, soppresata, the grilled prawn, and a special zucchini stuffed with cheese. All of them were great, and it's a fun way to enjoy many different things as appetizers. For an entree we split the pistachio pasta, which was very good and more than enough food for the two of us. The place is very big and seemed to be doing pretty well for a Wednesday with not so good weather outside.

              1. re: clashfan
                s
                sherrisparaga Jul 3, 2007 06:41 PM

                We just came back fom Bar Stuzzichini. The food was excellent and well priced. The bread and olive oil were so good. My husband adored the ragu bolognese and the mozzarella antipasti. I had an amazing eggplant caponata and an ok spaghetti with spicy squid (not bad, just not earth shattering either). The service could use work and the place seems like it should be smaller to be a neighborhood type of place. I will definitely go back and check out the 5 Antipastis for $22!

                1. re: sherrisparaga
                  a
                  americanafan Jul 3, 2007 06:52 PM

                  I also wasn't impressed with the spaghetti with spicy squid, but overall really liked Bar Stuzzichini. The ricotta with saffron and honey is delicious, as was the grilled prawn. (We also had the buffalo mozzarella, caponata, and grilled octopus.) 5 small plates for $22 is a great deal! My wife was enthralled with the swordfish, which were two thin roulades stuffed with pine nuts and raisins and topped with a Sicilian pesto sauce. We'll definitely be back.

            2. e
              ehrmanna Jul 4, 2007 08:34 PM

              I agree with everyone. The 5 for $22 is great. We had caponata, percorino, mozarela, grilled octopus, and meatballs (the meatballs weren't so tasty). The pasta dish, the one with fresh peas was delicious. But my short ribs really fell short....not good. Someone else had the swordfish -- they said okay at best. So it sounds like the apps are the way to go here. I would consider going back.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ehrmanna
                j
                jessiebean Jul 6, 2007 06:36 AM

                I have to disagree. I thought the meatballs were some of the best I have had. I also loved the swordfish. But I think the chicken is definitely the way to go. I also think the desserts are a must. My favorites are the chocolate cake and the orange cake. Have been there twice and will certainly be going back.

              2. Bob Martinez Jul 9, 2007 11:02 AM

                Bar Stuzzichini had been on our short list for awhile and we finally got around to visiting this past Saturday night. For the type of place it is the decor is slightly on the somber side. Dark woods, very soft lighting. Not bad, mind you, but for a place that I expect would cater to larger groups sharing plates I figured the atmosphere would be slightly more upbeat. (I'm making a direct comparison to Boqueria which we visited a couple of weeks ago. There they foster a kind of party atmosphere which I found a little off putting, but then again I am old and cranky.)

                We'd had a very light lunch so we were ready to do some heavy lifting. We started with the Stuzzichini Misti - for $22 you get to pick any 5 of their starters. Our choices were the polpo, the spicy sopressata, the fresh mozzarella, and a double order of the polpette. I liked everything just fine but nothing was particularly memorable except the polpette which had a peppery zip to them that was quite pleasant. My girlfriend had a slightly higher opinion of things.

                We both ordered the same main - Gnocchi All'amatriciana guanciale, tomato,onion and chilis. My girlfriend liked hers a lot. For me, I think I would have preferred sharing a smaller portion of the gnocchi. I thought it was a pretty one note dish - a nice note but in the end not much diversity. The guanciale had a pleasant smoky flavor but the two or three pieces that came with my gnocchi were really rubbery. If we hadn't had to get back home I would be chewing them still. My GF said she didn't have that problem with her dish so I attribute it to the luck of the draw.

                We'll definitely be back but part of the attraction will be the place's convenience to the Silver Swan, one of our favorite places for a late afternoon cocktail.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Bob Martinez
                  m
                  mrnyc Jul 9, 2007 11:28 PM

                  a SILVER SWANer, eh? well don't forget PAREA too when you're in the mood for some modernized greek.

                  1. re: mrnyc
                    d
                    djk Jul 17, 2007 08:45 PM

                    except that parea is closed.

                    1. re: djk
                      k
                      ktshea Jul 20, 2007 05:56 AM

                      I took my first trip to Bar Stuzzuchini last night -- I would go for the chickpea fritters and the olive oil cake alone. With that said, everything was wonderful. The 5 appetizers (actually we ordered 6) were all wonderul -- we had the chickpea fritters, the eggplant, the octupus (so tender, not at all rubbery), the ricotta with honey, the rice balls (somehow managed not to taste heavy) and the artichoke (my least favorite, but still good). Then I had the gnocchi -- I've had some bad gnocchi and some great gnocchi, this was definitely much more on the great side of the scale then the bad. My dining partner had the chicken -- the lemon taste is just fantastic. For dessert we had limoncello (made on-site), the olive oil cake (the secret is the orange zest), and a cannoli.

                      The service was wonderful, the chef was friendly (he works right up front at the bar) and I'm happy to say the place was full by the time we left :-)

                2. s
                  sherrisparaga Jan 1, 2008 08:26 AM

                  After going back at least 5 times, I am obsessed, it is busy every night of the week. All service kinks have been worked out. There are no bad stuzzichinis and the tuna with pesto is so fresh. There isn't a bad dish in the house.

                  1. c
                    Cackboy Jan 22, 2008 08:17 PM

                    Wow. I don't feel very well served by this thread. Just got back from there tonight and have to say I'm more than a bit disappointed in both the food and the service.

                    Seems like a place that can't make up its mind which end of the casual-to formal scale it's meant to be.

                    First off-putting impression: Upon arriving late to join a group, I informed the two hostess/coat check women that I was completing a party, to which I was able to point, as they were standing at the other end of the bar. Hostess brunette asked me if they left a name. I gamely walked down to the end and asked which of our party had left their name. Informed that a name had not been taken, I walked back out to the front to inform Hostess brunette that we had not left a name. She asked for a name again. I repeated my trip to be told the same thing, and returned witht he same answer. At which point a host stepped in (hostess blonde was just staring blankly at me as if to suggest that we needed reservations). He informed me that we didn't need reservations, but that we should settle our check at the bar, come back out to the front, and then be seated. Back to the end of the bar. Then our whole party back out to the front. No firm confirmation that a table was ready that minute. Then my party waits while they somewhat coercively asked us to check our coats, which in a place like this seems utterly unneccessary (this is not Aquavit). Finally the host informs us that table 40 is ready for us, hostess blonde (again awkwardly and coercively) puts companions' drinks on a tray and shows us to table 40. Fully five feet from where my party had been standing at the bar. All this back and forth when a good operation would have minimized confusion and all the buzzkilling back and forth with a few words of communication or better, would have come to us at the bar, escorted us to a table, and then sent the coat check girl as we were being seated. I'm not sure I'm relating this well, but as a veteran of many crowded scenes (and this was not one) at places like Frankie's Spuntino, Momofuku, Lupa, etc. I can tell you this whole process was like the Keystone Kops with model-actress-whatevers. All this fuss is unnecessary and incongruous in a place that has Led Zep on in the background.

                    So we get seated, are asked if tap water is "adequate" (as always, it was). Bread is served. The waiter comes over, drops off menus, and walks off without asking if the two of us with no drink (me) and empty drink need anything.

                    The waiter comes back, cut quickly to explaining how the menu works (somewhat condescendingly explaining the concept of a la carte to we bumpkins). Still no drink is offered.

                    Stuzzichini order: (I finally got my drink)
                    Meatballs: pleasantly crisp, but dry inside, offering no particular flavor and could have used a lemon wedge or something to freshen them up.
                    Eggplant: decent enough but not portioned for four.
                    Grilled prawns: the real standout, but when you tell me the chef will apportion the dishes for four and you intend on delivering two specimen, at least give me the opportunity to order four before you deliver them.
                    Artichoke (fritti): Utterly dessicated. Ugh.
                    Ricotta and Honey crostini: Actually quite excellent, but not exactly the kind of thing that would prompt a return visit.

                    Pastas: (finished the drink. glass disappears. No further drink is proffered)

                    Lemon Tagliatelle: As advertised, a standout. Though the table was divided
                    Gnocchi amatriciana (I think): decent sauce, avoided gumminess. Not particularly distinguished.
                    Pork Ragu: Pasta was perfect as was the Ragu.
                    Bucatini con le sarde: Well, the sarde were good, if sparse. Pasta was beyond al dente into dry territory. Fennel was cooked beyond recognition.

                    Add it all up: a couple of good dishes, more indifferent-to-just downright bad dishes, confused and inattentive service. Bill: $147 plus tip for 4.

                    Verdict: Unlike the tap water "Not adequate."

                    The money was not the problem. There's just nothing worth recommending. We kept waiting for the simple perfection of a Lil Frankie's roast eggplant or Frankie's 457 meatballs, or one of the Salumi at Lupa, the care put into a pork bun at Momofuku or the lamb kebabs at Boqueria (or, for that matter, a doner kebab at Bereket). But I've had better pasta con sarde at a little hole in the wall trattoria on 55th that I can't even recall the name of.

                    And then we waited about 5 minutes for our coats. Next time I'm in the flatiron I'll stand out in the cold at Boqueria or go one block over and try out Lunetta.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Cackboy
                      1
                      180macd Jan 23, 2008 06:09 AM

                      I have to agree with you. I too had a less than stellar experience at Bar Stuzz. I found the decor to be more in line with a TGIF's (albeit a nice one) and the food and service was just ok. I get the draw though, and would probably go back for wine and cheese at the bar.

                      1. re: 180macd
                        s
                        scrittrice Jan 23, 2008 06:56 AM

                        This place is schizoid, isn't it? The decor is pure chain. The service ranges from indifferent to awful. But I've had some very good food there. I never would have ventured past the TGIFriday's-style awning, but a friend took me there for lunch, and I've gone back a couple times (never in the evening). It's as if someone in the kitchen knows what s/he's doing, but the rest of the team is clueless. It's also very big and usually nearly empty. I wouldn't be surprised if it closed.

                      2. re: Cackboy
                        il Trifulau Jan 23, 2008 11:48 AM

                        I don't know. The scene you've described just doesn't seem all that bad to me.

                        I'm very particular about my Italian food and Stoots is very reliable. I'm averaging about three meals per month there.

                      3. w
                        Will4Food Jan 23, 2008 10:23 AM

                        Went there for Brunch last Sunday and had the best Spaghetti Carbonara I ever tasted. All of the food was exceptional. Although the place was nearly empty, they seated us at a very small, round marble table in the bar area. Can't understand this, when comfortable booths and larger tables remained empty throughout our very enjoyable meal.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Will4Food
                          b
                          brendastarlet Jan 23, 2008 11:59 AM

                          I was there in September, not long after they opened, and I had an okay experience. I thought it was noisy and crowded (obviously not a problem lately) but that the food was only so-so. There are now so many small plates restaurants that the concept isn't unusual, and given the uneven food, I probably wouldn't go back.

                          1. re: brendastarlet
                            c
                            cdog Feb 22, 2008 05:08 AM

                            i had the chance to finally check it out. i thought the food was good and well-priced. i think it is a good neighborhood spot that can be reviewed as reliable and a fun place to have a light meal and some drinks. it is what it is. i don't think they are striving to be a a high end type eatery. the decor was a bit odd and did feel like a chain, but it was awful.

                            we shared five small plates: eggplant bruchetta, fried chokes, rice balls, meat balls and cheese. all were tasty and well prepared.

                            my wife had the eggplant entree and i had gnocchi. both were good. i would go back and i would recommend it to friends and family.

                        2. h
                          High Heels and Frijoles Apr 29, 2008 06:31 AM

                          I had dinner there a few weeks ago and thought it was completely average. The place was practically empty when we arrived and there was a surplus of waiters, yet it took someone about 15 minutes to come over. Plus, there seemed to be some confusion among them as we had three different servers throughout the meal. No one was very friendly.

                          As for the food itself, the arancini were good but everything else was forgettable. I ordered the gnocchi with guanciale and found the sauce tinny; pure tomato paste I suspect. Factor the decor in and you might as well have had dinner at Maggiano's.

                          1. s
                            sro798 May 16, 2008 12:08 PM

                            I think the location is the best part about Bar Stuzz. It's large enough that you don't have to wait forever for a seat. That said, I think they're stingy on their portions. I've only had the appetizers (5 for $25) and I don't think you get $25 worth of food. If its gonna be small, at least make it melt in my mouth, please. The salami is so thin sliced it's barely there, and it's still a little greasy. Go for the ease of location/seating, a drink, an app or two, but don't expect to be overwhelmed by flavors too much.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sro798
                              l
                              LRH Sep 8, 2008 03:52 PM

                              We had truly horrendous service at Bar Stuzzichini. The place was half empty yet the waitress was so rude as we asked why some of our dishes never came! The manager came over and confronted us that we'd never ordered those dishes rather than apologize! Incredibly rude and unprofessional. And the food was quite mediocre and overpriced. The chicken was bland and pistachio pasta passable.

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