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On a recent visit to Discovery Wines, a wonderful new wine store on Avenue A and 1st Street, I thought I had made an amazing discovery of my own: Cantinella, a charming trattoria located diagonally across the avenue. Upon walking in for dinner, I was sure the restaurant was brand new: the ochre walls seemed freshly painted, the rustic wood furnishings looked just-polished, and the staff had the warmth and friendliness consistent with wanting to make a good first impression. So imagine my surprise in discovering Cantinella has actually been open for 18 months.Review By: Brian Scott Lipton
What quickly became obvious is that the same love and care found in the front of the house extends to the kitchen, which turns out the kind of Italian food served in the homeland, full of fresh ingredients and appropriately portioned. (If you’re an Olive Garden sort of guy, go elsewhere). And, as with many of the city’s newer Italian eateries (such as the lovely Roberto, on Ninth Avenue and 50th Street, which I also visited recently), diners willing to share appetizers and desserts and stay away from alcohol can eat very reasonably. Others should prepare themselves for heftier if still moderate checks.
Certainly, two people can easily share the involtini de melanzane, a pair of tender rolled eggplant slices encasing a delicious mixture of ricotta, mozzarella, roasted sweet pepper and spinach, or a frequent special of three lightly breaded large zucchini flowers stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella, and accompanied by an excellent fresh tomato sauce. Other appetizers include baked clams, grilled calamari, and the ubiquitous Caesar salad.
While entrée choices ranged from sirloin steak to chicken scarpariello and grilled dorado, we decided to sample a pair of intriguing-sounding pastas. And we were not disappointed. Homemade papardelle intermingled with tomato and sauteed wild mushrooms and napped in truffle oil was lush and satisfying, while rigatoni accented with chunks of Italian sausage, broccoli rabe, and garlic cloves in extra virgin olive oil hit the spot on a chilly evening. And one could ask for no better finale than the homemade tiramisu, heady with espresso. It’s not just (Avenue) A-OK; it’s superb.
Neighborhood: East Village
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