This week's review is of Spasso on 551 Hudson Street in the West Village. We were excited to check this place out - it is brand new, and its opening seemed to be coupled with lots of press, emails, and early signs of support from peeps in the know. Did it live up to the hype? I would say that it came close.
The interior is sharp. A big marble bar greets you upon entry (the bartenders at Spasso make a nice drink - we had a few). Nice hardwood floors and crisp, soaring ceilings outline what is a busy and buzzing atmosphere. This was a little surprising to me, since it had been billed as some ultimate romantic nook. Yes, there is dim lighting, but the scene appears far too energetic (chaotic?) to be an ideal date spot. Not to say it is date atrocious either. I will call it - date doable. Fair? (Elana, no offense)
Sis and I are jammed into a tight (even tight by cozy west village standards) table, having to move it around a bit to navigate our loud, and very near-by neighbors. Also, we are shouting a bit to communicate, which isn't uncommon in an Italian family, but in this case it's a prerequisite to have a conversation.
Not withstanding the above, all of the food we have was very well made and artfully prepared. They start us off with some airy, well crusted bread and olive oil; can never go wrong here. Elana orders a Ribollita soup with pancetta, kale and ricotta. It's very light, with a sophisticated tang due to the meat. I order baked cannelloni with some shaved eggplant. It's served in a small, iron square dish which gives the perimeter of the meal a nice crust. Sauce is solid here as well, and the pasta is crisped but not too burned. Nice job.
For a second dish, Elana orders Ricotta Gnocchi in a duck/tomato sauce. This is tops for the night. The gnocchi has great consistency, and there appears to be a salty, bacon presence throughout the dish. I scrape up the remnants of Elana's dish when she is not paying close attention. I had Pork shoulder which was cooked nice and slow: the pork fell apart and was tastefully fatty and salty.
For Dessert, Elana had some heavy but wonderful doughnuts, served with a dark chocolate dipping sauce. I had some coconut panna cotta with sliced pineapple, which was very well done.
The service here was ok. It was not uncommon for the waitress to be grinding up on me a bit when serving our neighbors. Also, at what seemed like precise, 30 minute intervals, a plume of smoke would migrate from the kitchen area and fog up the entire restaurant. But Spasso is new, so perhaps a mulligan is appropriate for these faults, as the food was pretty darn good.
As seen below, the bathrooms were pretty nice. Full length mirrors, crazy artwork, and your own private water closet. Did I mention full length mirrors?
Overall, Elana and I had a positive experience at Spasso. It trails a step behind some of the other smarter, edgier Italian joints in the immediate area, such as Dell'Anima - both in the quality of the food and the polish of the atmosphere and staff - but I get the feeling Spasso has not reached its full potential.
Movie Equivalent - Heat