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Scarpetta Review

I'm finally getting around to posting some reviews from a trip in June. Thanks to all of the helpful reviews and advice from Manhattan Chowhounds. I'm an organic chemistry professor and used to grading so I've given a grade to all of the courses. I can assure you that my students don't often do this well. My friend and I arrived at 8 pm for our reservation at that time and we were promptly seated. Almost all of the tables were filled. The dining room had a nice decor and a pleasant buzz. The glass ceiling was a nice touch and the light was perfect at that time of the day. The room was moderately loud, but we had no problems communicating with each other or the staff. We already had drinks at Spice Market (complex, tasty, but small) nearby so we turned down cocktails. The menu (available online) seemed to be the perfect length and had many interesting dishes in all categories. It was quite difficult to make decisions, but we received some nice help from the staff. Our main server and the sommelier were particularly helpful in picking a moderately priced rosé for us to match our diverse food selections. There were some very nice varieties of bread to start, although neither of us ate a lot of bread, especially when we had four courses to eat. The citrus dipping oil was great, but the red pepper spread and mascarpone butter were just OK. I started with the tuna susci (pronounced "sushi") with marinated vegetables and preserved truffles. It was basically raw tuna wrapped around various vegetables with mushrooms on the side and fresh herbs on top. The taste and texture were outstanding. There was a very nice combination of flavors and the portion was larger than I expected. I grade the dish an A-. My friend had the creamy polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms. This dish was one of the highlights. Visually it was very appealing--the polenta was in one white porcelain bowl and the mushrooms in a separate small metal pot. The polenta was luscious and tasted so elegant when combined with the mushrooms. My friend likened it to eating a mushroom dessert. That dish was an A+. My friend followed the polenta with the agnolotti dal plin filled with mixed meat. This dish looked very simple, but the taste was excellent and the pasta perfectly cooked (A-). I had the ravioli with duck and foie gras and a marsala reduction. It was hard to decide between this dish and the polenta for the best of the evening. The ravioli were perfectly cooked and the duck flavor was intense. The foie was not overwhelming and really added a slight richness to the duck and seemed to extend its flavor. The marsala reduction leant a nice counterpoint to the richness of the duck/foie (A+). Once again, the portion sizes for both pasta dishes were generous. The rosé complimented the pasta dishes extremely well and also did a good job with the starters. It was less good for the final courses, but we weren't complaining. We both ordered fish with my friend having the black cod with caramelized fennel and concentrated tomato. I had the turbot with caramelized endive, leeks, onions & salsa verde. Neither fish dish rose to the level of the previous dishes (B+ for both). The fish were perfectly cooked and most of the flavors were nice, if not a little muted. The concentrated tomato was very bold. One of the reasons we went with fish was that we thought we would be stuffed from the first courses. I had strongly considered the goat and my friend was interested in the porkchop--perhaps next time. Both desserts were excellent. My friend had the amedei chocolate cake with burnt orange-caramel gelato, and espresso sauce. The cake had a nice texture and an intense chocolate flavor, complemented well by the gelato and sauce. I had the special rhubarb dessert with these elaborate cookie rings, filo layers, pineapple gelato, pineapple gelee, and vanilla risotto. The contrasts in textures and flavors were delightful. It was one of those dishes where it's fun to get a little bit of every ingredient to get the full effect. Both desserts were an A. The service throughout the evening was uniformly excellent. The head server stopped by several times to check on us and the sommelier made sure that we were enjoying the wine. We only had one bottle, and the staff did a very good job of spacing it out over the three savory courses. We thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere. It seemed like most of the people were enjoying themselves around us. We definitely recommend the restaurant and will try to get back someday.

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  1. Thanks for the detailed review, ChemWork. The polenta with mushrooms is one of Conant's signature dishes, and it is to die for! I've had both the fish dishes you and your friend had. While both were excellent, I'd give a slightly higher grade to the black cod, as I thought the caramelized fennel and concentrated tomatoes were brilliant.

    Btw, I was hopeless with chemistry. But as a former high school English teach and community college writing instructor, I would be forced, very regretfully, to lower the grade on your review for lack of paragraphing. ;) lol

    3 Replies
    1. re: RGR

      I appreciate your response that you were "hopeless" with chemistry. Most of the time people respond that they "hated" chemistry and I get the subtle vibe that I should be ashamed (ha!). You are entirely correct about the paragraphing--too often I focus on substance and forget the importance of style. You would think after eating in so many restaurants I would understand the interrelatedness of the two. At least I gave you the opportunity to revisit the worst part about teaching--grading. Cheers!

      1. re: RGR

        RGR, I am familiar with the rules of grammar, punctuation paragraphing,spelling...... however, I love commas. I hate fixing typos. These days with texting and "internet language" LOL,,, I imagine it gets you crazy when you see the errors on here and elsewhere. I accept my failing CH grammar grade, and hope you can see thru ( aka through) it , as I stand for Truth , Justice, and the American Way. I am however, much slower than a speeding bullet. Yes, I ramble. I love to eat though. P.S. ChemWork's review was excellent ( all in one paragraph).

        1. re: foodwhisperer

          foodwhisperer: FYI, RGR no longer posts on this board. She is greatly missed!

      2. Great review! What was the price per person on this?

        1 Reply
        1. re: angelaangel

          It was $140 per person including an appropriate tip for the excellent service.

        2. Went last weekend and forgot to write up my notes until now. First off: killer bread basket. Filone, ciabatta, focaccia, house-made stromboli with smoked mozzarella and salami. The stromboli and I definitely had a moment. Really amazing. I can't believe they give you four really great types of bread with three different spreads, almost as if they want you to fill up on bread? Not that I really minded. Mascarpone butter (so creamy and luscious), eggplant caponata (this should almost be a side dish you can order -- really chunk and hearty), and citrus-infused olive oil.

          My polenta with truffled mushrooms was really good and flavorful, although it was a bit heavy on the truffle. The portion size is a bit too heavy for one person, especially one person who's just eaten 3 pieces of their amazing bread. I couldn't finish and my husband got the last few bites. This would be a good dish to share, although I'm certain that fights might break out about who gets to lick the bowl clean. My husband chose a lighter dish -- a tasty rabbit salad with great croutons, just a nice mix of flavors. Rabbit was slightly on the dry side from the bites I had, but the dressing made up for it. Good, but not great.

          Our pastas were spaghetti, and foie/duck ravioli both good. Enormous portions. Caveman sized. Enough to feed four people. They are trying to kill you with kindness at Scarpetta. Lovely fresh spaghetti strands -- chewy in just the right way, fabulously textured. The pasta here really captures the sauce in a wonderful way, and the sauce is fantastic. Fresh, a little buttery, just a hint of oil, wonderful tomato goodness, with fresh basil. Lovely. I could eat this every day for a month and not get bored. The foie/duck ravioli was also good but not quite at the level of the spaghetti (but, seriously, what is?) and my husband ate the entire thing, nearly licking the plate clean. Not a superheavy foie gras flavor (thankfully) but really rich and nice and umami-filled. Yum!

          My husband had been eying the ash encrusted venison and we ordered it as our main, intending to split it, against my better judgment. But, alas, I was not feeling the smoky crust, and we were both too full to eat more than one bite. And no room for dessert even though I kept seeing portions of banana pudding fly out the kitchen. Damn!

          Next time, no main for us, only pastas. Maybe a third pasta. And the bread basket. To go. If I can even resist eating all the bread at once!

          BTW, if I recall correctly, it was $150 for two with tax and tip for great (really!) service. Can't wait to go back.

          8 Replies
          1. re: kathryn

            Your review was really good Kathryn. I went again last weekend for a late dinner. We were seated at 1030, so the appetites were a little smaller by then from snacking. my date and I told the waiter we were going to split the polenta and to my surprise, they brought out the polenta already split into two plates for us!!! I thought that was really thoughtful for them. And I have to say, it was the first time i only had half a portion of the polenta, and it was more than enough. Then again when I order it, i force my entire party to try it cause it's soo good. So I agree with you, it's too rich to consume alone :)

            1. re: kathryn

              Yay! I'm so happy you liked it kathryn! And isn't that bread basket just phenomenal?!?!? I remember our first meal there, like you I had a moment, but with the entire basket!

              And I have to confess, I've never had an entree there ... the pastas are just so phenomenal, I cannot imagine a main dish that could follow one of those pastas and elevate the meal.

              1. re: a213b

                You really must try the black cod dish. It is phenomenal, IMO better than the pastas.

              2. re: kathryn

                "Lovely fresh spaghetti strands -- chewy in just the right way, fabulously textured. The pasta here really captures the sauce in a wonderful way, and the sauce is fantastic. Fresh, a little buttery, just a hint of oil, wonderful tomato goodness, with fresh basil. Lovely. I could eat this every day for a month and not get bored."

                Thanks to all for the detailed reviews! We did not make it to Scarpetta on our last trip to NYC, but it is high on the list for the next one. Meanwhile, kathryn's description of the spaghetti above inspired me to make my own version at home last night. Which was incredibly simple, but also satisfying and delicious.

                1. re: kathryn

                  Thanks so much for this review. Great thread overall for giving me a good idea about the place. The other reviews I read (Times, NY Mag) failed to mention the awesomeness that is this bread basket.

                  Headed there Saturday evening, looking forward to it!

                  1. re: metfan630

                    You can see photos of the two dinners we've had Scarpetta (including shots of the bread basket and its accompaniments) here:

                    http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                    and here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/11863391...

                    Hope you have an excellent meal. Buon Apetito!

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                    Scarpetta
                    355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                    1. re: RGR

                      Thanks for the pics RGR - looks phenominal!

                      Is it lunch time yet?? hehe.

                      1. re: metfan630

                        Unfortunately, as you probably know, Scarpetta does not serve lunch.

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                        Scarpetta
                        355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                2. Is Scarpetta good for a small group of around 6 people?

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                  Scarpetta
                  355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014

                  1 Reply
                  1. We just returned from a dinner at Scarpetta. While there was excellent service and wines, we both felt the food was almost inedible.
                    First we ordered a Fritto misto, it managed to be both burnt and greasy. I had farfalle with sweetbreads. The farfalle were cooked to death, and the sweetbreads managed to taste muddy and attempted to be crispy, but were only really long on the fire before before being added to the farfalle. Not good.
                    My partner had the halibut which was actually just a vehicle for way too much ginger (?) and overcooked. I had the capretto. I've eaten goat a lot, but this was too gamy, it was as if they had not bothered to do anything to try to fix the flavor by either salting, or marinating the meat first. I noticed that the table next to me only ate half of their order of capretto before sending it back, I was no more successful than they were in finishing my goat.
                    So in short, a great place for drinks, a ghastly place to eat. Yuck!

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                    Scarpetta
                    355 West 14th Street, New York, NY 10014