The other day, a couple of friends and I headed to Rafele - A recently-ish opened West Village Italian spot (on 29 7th Ave South) which seemed to be coupled with almost universal praise according to yelp, urban table, and this random Italian dude I met at a house party not too long ago who proclaimed that Rafele had the best Italian food he'd eaten since moving to the states (true story). I had actually visited Rafele a couple of times for Pizza (made in a Neapolitan wood burning oven) and was so impressed that I made it a point to return so sample their entrees. Bring it, Rafele. Let's see what you got.
The scene inside is a pleasant one. There is a capably staffed bar immediately to your right, ample indoor/outdoor seating, high ceilings, an open kitchen, and a seemingly friendly (and at times a heavily accented) Italian wait-staff. Our Neapolitan waiter politely steered us into moderately priced wine, which the group appreciated. A good start so far.
Rafele continued a strong impression with their appetizers. The highlight was actually a complimentary side dish: a deliciously sweet, syrupy Caponata bruschetta with peppers and olives. We also ordered carciofi (fried artichokes) and a buratta mozzarella which sat over a small mound of endives. Both were pretty freaking awesome, I must say. The crispy, salt artichokes were complimented quite nicely by runny, tangy and slightly sour buratta. Bravo.
Momentum nonetheless stalled for our pasta courses, I must say. I ordered a Tagloilini ai funghi with mixed mushrooms and a truffle pate. The noodles, which had a delicate and skillful homemade consistency, were a bit bland. Some also stuck together, as opposed to how a homemade pasta dish should behave: where the noodles just sort of effortlessly coexist together in a frictionless, harmonious arrangement of glory and fine craftsmanship. There was decent-to-moderately pleasing truffle flavor however, and a faint, but noticeable and appropriate level of oil throughout the dish. I was simultaneously pleased and dissatisfied, if that is possible. My two buddies had similar blandness complaints about their pastas as well.
The slightly disappointing dinner was at least temporarily forgotten by a fine dessert performance, a rich, light, creamy slice of fresh ricotta cheesecake.
In judging the overall experience of Rafele, I'd give it a solid score, but with some fluctuating consistency. The appetizers, dessert, and environment were more than adequate, however the pastas were a tad disappointing... but I'd be willing to give Rafele a second try.
Ultimate experience - Black Swan