Monday, February 4, 2008

Grazie for Stuzzichini

As I've mentioned time and time again, I love sharing small plates at dinner. And, on Friday night, there was no exception. I had been wanting to try Bar Stuzzichini since it opened last summer, and was excited to finally be going. Roughly translated, stuzzichini means "appetizers" in Italian. How could we go wrong dining at a restaurant that not only serves Italian small plates, but is also named after them?! The short answer: the restaurant certainly didn't go wrong with the stuzzichini, but where it did struggle was with the entrees. Then again, it is named Bar "Appetizers," and not "Bar Entrees."

You are given the option of ordering the stuzzichini a la carte, or as part of a stuzzichini mista, in which you select five from around 25 choices. They base the portion size based on how many people are in the party. There were five of us, so we ordered the stuzzichini mista for 4-6 people. Unless you are only ordering one or two small plates, it's much more economical to order the mix and not a la carte.

We ordered two crostinis, both of which were delicious. One was topped with a chickpea puree (not like hummus though) and the other with homemade ricotta, saffron, and honey. We ordered meatballs, which I don't eat, but everyone said they were very moist and tasty, and they smelled great. I would skip the eggplant stuffed with ricotta. It was served cold (on purpose), and lost a lot of the flavor that grilled eggplant normally has. By far, my favorite was the fried artichokes. Definitely cannot go wrong with anything fried and salted...but beyond that, these really had a great flavor.

So, the stuzzichini part of the meal was a success, but since everyone wasn't really filled by these small plates, we ordered entrees as well. The portion sizes were very small...and some of them were received with mixed reviews. The pasta e ceci (pasta with chickpeas and tomatoes in an almost broth-like sauce) was very flavorful, but seemed like something I could easily prepare at home. The other pasta dishes were hit or miss, but luckily for Miss Menu, everyone enjoyed the meal overall.

The atmosphere at Bar Stuzzichini is great. It has the feel of an authentic Italian cafe. Large, modern chandeliers hang across the entire length of the restaurant, giving the place a warm feel. The hostess was friendly...and we were seated at the time of our reservation. Our waiter was very friendly and helpful in recommending and explaining dishes. I'll definitely be back to Bar Stuzzichini, but will stick to ordering what its named for next time!

A few things worth mentioning...
- Definitely make a reservation. After being written up a handful of times since its opening, Bar Stuzzichini has attracted quite a crowd.
- This restaurant is perfect for large groups. They have a number of round booths that fit 5 or 6 people. There are also very large tables towards the back of the restaurant.
- It's also great for dining solo. There is a regular bar in the front of the restaurant, but midway back, there are also stools at a white marble-topped counter where diners can eat with a view of large hunk of prosciutto and cooks preparing the stuzzichini.
- From reviews I have read since eating there Friday night, others suggest ordering the gnocchi and short ribs. But don't just take my word for it: Grub Street, Bruni's New York Times review, and Ed Levine Eats.

Bar Stuzzichini
928 Broadway
b/t 21st & 22nd Streets
website
Menu Pages listing

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