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Feb 25, 2012 04:48 PM

Joanne Trattoria (W 68th & Columbus)

Went to Joanne Trattoria on W68th and Columbus last Thursday evening.

menu is here:

We walked in at 6pm and, although we did not have a reservation and it was very crowded, they graciously seated us against the high tables along the kitchen counter. Well, we soon learned it was the best seat in the house, although the back room is extremely cozy and I loved the prospect of sitting in their outdoor area when it is warmer.

I immediately felt at home for many reasons (a rarity for me but the aesthetics were just perfect as was the overall vibe) and every staff member was a delight - totally professional and genuinely friendly. We chatted with the very friendly and entertaining kitchen staff as we watched them prepare the meals. They had such a great sense of humor even though they were standing in front of an oven that was set at 598 degrees F. They filled us in about the new, upcoming desserts, tiramisu included.

Art Smith chatted with us several times, and graciously served us our dessert . He was a big presence in the restaurant - chatting with customers and pitching in on the floor.

I can't even think of one negative to say about the service. Water glasses were refilled regularly (with ICE - big plus for me) . They allowed us to linger without any signs of resentment despite the crowds and, when I asked if I could just order a side dish instead of an entree, I was told, without hesitation, that we would never be forced to place a minimum order. It was all perfect, and this was well before the Germonattas walked in and sat at the next table.

Now for the food . The antipasti salad was fabulous - countless little treasures chopped up together onto one plate - veggies, meat and cheese. I never had a salad like this with so much variety. Although we did not order the salumi and cheese board, many people did and it looked amazing and large! The $8 side dish of mac and cheese was probably the best mac and cheese I've had in a very long time, if not ever. They completely agreed with my request to make it crispy and out came a piping hot, white casserole dish of mac and cheese - crispy yet creamy with the perfect balance of flavor, and
a variety of cheese types and cream. It was a large order for a side dish. OH YUM!! I will be back for that, and Iater realized the Germanottas ordered it as well.

My friend ordered the spaghetti and meatballs which was served in a deep, white bowl with a big meatball on top. It was not soaked in sauce. She loved it. Yup, $23 is pricey. I cannot argue that but one could save $7 by ordering the $8 penne pasta side dish and the $8 meatball side dish , served on an adorable cast iron skillet . Few restaurants would offer this less expensive option so another big thumbs up in that respect and, remember, there is no minimum. I was not crazy for the taste of the sauce (although my friend really liked it), more likely because it was different than the sauce prepared in my own Italian household growing up. This doesn't mean it was bad. It's just a personal taste thing with me as I am very finicky about sauce. The meatball was too soft but it was huge and really good otherwise. Bread pudding with bourbon sauce (also ordered by the Germanottas) was beyond amazing and I normally do not eat bread pudding. Oh, and the wood oven-baked focaccia served hot with crispy grated cheese and fresh onions was amazing, and they were very generous with refills. Here's a photo:

It was also nice to chat with Mrs. Germanotta (and offer her an array of well-deserved compliments) who made her rounds and stopped by our table before departing. She also graciously chatted with customers (of all ages) who couldn't resist stopping by their table as they dined.

Quality Italian food is almost non-existent . I am so glad this place opened in my neighborhood. I wish them well and hope their quality, enthusiasm and talents do not decline over time.

70 W 68th St, New York, NY 10023

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  1. Nice review. Quite a difference than what the NY Post said!

    1. i also live in the neighborhood and dined at Joanne just a few nights ago at the urging of a friend. i watched as the restaurant was coming together, but lost interest once the menu was posted online. there's so little that sounds appealing.

      regardless, we went and had just a terrible evening. we were booked for an early dinner at 5pm, their first seating, and were promptly served the warm focaccia, which was dry from having been overcooked. our party of six reviewed the menu and ordered. had i gone with my gut, all six of us would have ordered one of two entrees - the spaghetti & meatballs or the roasted chicken with sausage. i ordered last and opted for something different - the penne with rabe and a grilled calamari appetizer. the server explained that the calamari would be served fried instead of grilled, which was fine by me. it was good, but only in the way that fried calamari ever is. i've had it as good in bars.

      entrees came and were shameful. my penne was bland and just a bore to eat. the spaghetti and meatball dish was plated dry with the sauce poured over it, leaving much of the pasta still plain. it looked fit for a child. two giant meatballs loomed on top. the server must have mistook my wife for a superhero, as he passed her her dish and warned "be careful. it's very hot." i tried the spaghetti and the meatball and wouldn't return for either one.

      it's obvious when a table isn't enjoying their meal. no one insisted that anyone try anything or proclaimed how good their dish was. instead, we all commented on other italian places that serve really good food. i asked if anyone had ever been to Scarpetta for their spaghetti. we spoke of a hole in the wall in Queens.

      service was laughable. water was rarely filled. wine glasses were never refilled by the staff, only by myself. the server didn't know who ordered what and expected us to grab hot plates from him to pass around the table.

      on the positive side, the restaurant has a warm, homey feel and a great smell permeates the space. it'll take more than that to keep the tables full each night though.

      70 W 68th St, New York, NY 10023

      1 Reply
      1. re: coasts

        I wonder if the Sun-Wed staff is different from the Thurs.-Sat. staff. I guess it would explain the vastly different reviews I've been reading.

      2. I've not gone, and do remember the Post review, but I'm happy you had a good meal and time. But how can you say "Quality Italian food is almost non-existent" when there's never been more choices for it in the city? Puzzled.