My friends and family would call me a picky eater, and they’re probably right, but I’d add that my fickleness is not relating to the category of food I’m eating, but rather the quality, and what’s wrong with that? I expect a lot where my money is involved, and I think that any restaurant worth its salt should be able to do better in the kitchen than I ever could. No where is this more important to me than when I’m dining out for Italian food: I can do a fine job at home, so when I go out, it’d better be spectacular.
Just to prove that I can be pleased, I wanted my first review to be of an Italian restaurant that I’m pretty fond of. I Sodi, located in the West Village on Christopher Street, has everything I want in a dining establishment: understated decor, informed waiters, great wine, and grub that justifies the price tag.
I’ve been to I Sodi twice, both times in the early evening, because later reservations are hard to come by unless you plan ahead by a week. On both occasions, as you can see from the photo, the place was pretty quiet around 5:30pm, but by 7:30pm it was packed. I get the sense that many of the parties included regulars, people who can afford to make this a weekly event (lucky them).
I went with a close friend, and we began with a Chianti classico ($12/glass), a crowd-pleasing red: easy on the palate, it starts off fruity and sweet, but has a clean, dry finish. For the appetizer, we decided to split the antipasto toscano for two, which I loved the first time I was here.
Once again, it was delicious, and might be my favorite thing on the menu. In the center is miele di castagno, a chestnut honey, and in my opinion, the star of the show. If you’ve never paired honey with a meat and cheese plate, buy a good honey at the market and assemble your own plate at home for a party–it will both surprise and impress your guests. The three cheeses were piave, pecorino sardo, and a parmigiano. All were wonderful, but I preferred the pecorino to pair with the cured meats, which were finocchiona (cured with fennel seed), salame toscano, cacciatorini and prosciutto.
A leaner salame, cacciatorini (on the right) seemed to be the favorite of my friend and I, but I honestly could not reserve myself with any of the options above. At $25 for two, you’re served a more than generous amount, so if you’d like to save $8 and save room in your belly, I’d split the antipasto for one at $17.
At Italian restaurants, there is the primi piatti, meaning “first plate,” which is a pasta, and the secondi piatti, “second plate,” which is a meat dish. My friend and I are both recently out of college, so culturally (but mostly financially), this was very foreign to us, and considering the amount of meat we consumed from the antipasto plate, we decided a secondi piatti was completely gratuitous.
My friend had the rigatoni bolognese (meat sauce, pictured top), and I had the spinach and ricotta ravioli in a sage butter sauce (bottom). In both cases, I thought whoever was responsible for the cheese-grating got a little over zealous, as I’d prefer to have that done at the table so I can say “when.” I wasn’t blown away by the bolognese, though it was good. It didn’t have that special quality, that one texture, taste, or smell that makes your mouth dance. The ravioli, I found, did have that quality, perhaps more so in their pillow-like, heavenly softness, rather than in taste alone. They were very good, but I was glad to have ordered the half portion, so as to steer away from the buttery coma that I barely avoided. I have also had the artichoke lasagna on my first visit, which was absolutely amazing. There were at least 10 layers of pasta, separated by wonderfully rich artichoke leaves, cooked to silky perfection. Not available in the half portion, the lasagna could easily make for two meals, and I thoroughly enjoyed my leftovers for lunch the next day.
For dessert, we split the semifreddo alla nocciola (frozen hazelnut mousse) with fior di latte (cow’s milk ice cream). Our waiter served it to us with a glass of amaretto (almond liqueur), which was a nice compliment to the hazelnut mousse. Everything worked together very well, but the fior di latte was particularly impressive, as it was the first time either of us had it. I guess I would compare it to a whipped cream, but it had a beautiful texture and subtle vanilla flavor that would easily kick any whipped cream’s ass.
Youngins, these meal was by no means inexpensive, but if you’re like me and once in a while you spoil yourself by dropping some cash on a great meal, go for it, otherwise… wait for the relatives to come to town. Grown-ups, I Sodi is well worth it.
Overall rating (5 being best, 1 being worst):
Other Italian recommendations in NYC: Basta Pasta, Peasant