Totally charming from the rustic wooden tables and big stone bar as you enter to the covered garden behind filled with apricot roses and well-spaced tables. Even the loo is adorable with a square stone wash basin and candles. Service is also high on charisma from the boots-and-slinky -black dress-clad hostess to the young woman who recited the specials.
The much touted cauliflower appetizer lives up to the hype with caramelized onions, currants, pinenuts and breadcrumbs, the cauliflower cut into small bits so each bite carries all the flavors. Diners can also start with crispy artichokes, calamari with lemon and mint or arancini, fried risotto balls holding a center of melted cheese, as well as specials of the day.
The bread basket comes with a small pot of very good quality olive oil for dipping. For a main course, I flirted with paparadelle with a lamb ragu but opted instead for a pasta special of tagliatelle laden with roasted tomatoes and lots of seafood including scallops, mussels, squid and baby octopus. There are plenty of other pastas on offer from agnolotti filled with spinach and homemade ricotta, orechetti with chopped tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella and house-made gnocchi. The sides--broccoli rabe, roast fennel, kale and others--are nicely handled should you wish to spring for an additional $8 for a meal that can become somewhat pricey with little effort.
There is a full bar and a comprehensive wine list with almost all-Italian glasses and bottles. Cocktails run the creative gamut from the Aperol Spritz that blends this trendy liqueur with prosecco and a splash or soda and fresh mint to a Watermelon Negroni mixing gin, Campari and Cocci Americano with fresh watermelon. Open for lunch and dinner, Palma makes a good space for a private party in the Carriage House and caters should you want to import the experience elsewhere. On weekends the restaurant serves brunch featuring standards as well as more innovative offerings along the lines of frittata with shrimp, red onion and mint and a prosciutto and goat cheese omelet. For those in need of a sandwich, there is a "mini burger" with kale topped with tapenade; a delicious "Italian burger" that combines beef and veal with sautéed artichokes, caramelized onions and Gorgonzola and more.
For a sweet ending, I like the vanilla gelato 'drowned' in espresso although the ricotta cheesecake with raspberry coulis isn't bad either. To finish, order tea or one of the many Italian-influenced coffees; the other diner at my table had a simple macchiato but could have gone for the Café Correto in which the basic brew is 'corrected' with the addition of grappa, sambuca or brandy.
A reservation here is a good idea. The restaurant is open Monday–Saturday for dinner from 5-11pm; Sunday, 5-10pm; for lunch Tuesday–Friday, Noon-3pm and brunch on Saturday and Sunday, Noon-3pm. Major credit cards are accepted. Cornelia Street is already pretty cute and Palma takes this charm a step further.