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Emilio Ballato -- review, first impression

s
Simon Sep 8, 2012 08:22 PM

Tried it on a rainy night, w/ a friend visiting from Taiwan...

Generally positive vibes, but a mixed bag overall...

It's a great grungey old-school room...and we loved that the tables are spaced far enough apart for easy conversation...waiters were uniformly affable and cheerful...

Food:

Caesar salad: pretty good...actually prob the best i've had in NYC, but that's not saying much as every other Caesar (including Pietro's) has been somewhere btw mediocre and disgusting...the version here is authentically yolky and has some garlic kick to it, though i'll prob ask them to kick it up a bit more fish and garlic-wise next time and see what happens...decent...

Shrimp Fra Diavolo...also decent...nicely cooked linguine, real dried red peppers ala Sichuan in the sauce, 6 or so medium/large shrimp...

Fish of the Day: kinda bad...it was billed as sole, but it was meatier and drier than any sole i've ever eaten...more like very good cafeteria scrod...it was fresh, and not greasy w/ added butter or anything like that...but it wasn't good...(we were debating btw that and the sausage w/ broccoli rabe for our second entree -- we shared everything--, and i wish we'd done the latter)...

Tiramisu (it was my friend's bday) was brought out w/ a candle and singing...she loved every bite of it...

a bottle of yummy Greco di Tufo from Campagnia, reasonably priced at 40 bucks...

All in all, a very pleasant meal, and the bill was 137 w/ tax, before tip...the owner was very charming, introduced himself to my friend in kind manner as we were leaving...

On first impression: is this a real peach of a destination chow-wise?...naw...but i think it's a fine option for a mellow evening of pasta and wine...and also i think an excellent choice for out of town guests, new to NYC, who want a bit of Godfather-esque vibe but with better food than Little Italy...(it might be the perfect answer to that tiresome Chowhound question: "Where should we go in Little Italy?" -- and given that its cross st is Mulberry, it's close enough to name without getting into the Nolita/LittleItaly distinctions)...

Will likely return some night to try the sausage, lamb, and red wine (it feels like a place that's most comfy in winter), and will report back...

  1. k
    kathryn Sep 8, 2012 08:41 PM

    BTW the Caesar Salad at the Breslin is awesome. Lots of anchovy.

    1. t
      tex.s.toast Sep 9, 2012 06:20 AM

      I came away with an equally mixed reaction after a meal i was taken to there a couple months ago. FANTASTIC clams oreganto, though. seriously.

      1. s
        Sneakeater Sep 9, 2012 08:19 AM

        "(it might be the perfect answer to that tiresome Chowhound question: "Where should we go in Little Italy?" -- and given that its cross st is Mulberry, it's close enough to name without getting into the Nolita/LittleItaly distinctions)..."

        I think the real point is that Emilio's Ballato is an actual Old Skool red sauce place of the kind that COULD be in Little Italy. (Indeed, it's a leftover from when Nolita still WAS Little Italy.)

        Whereas the Nolita places people often recommend -- Peasant, Torrissi, even Rubiroso -- are all definitely new "Nolita-not-Little-Italy" places, even if some of them riff on Old Skool places.

        Emilio's Ballato simply IS what people who want to go to Little Italy are looking for. The new-Nolita places aren't.

        (That said, I agree with you that Emilio's is not all that great. I'm surprised you want to return. I didn't feel the need.)

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