Locanda Verde… Missing: Ambiance, Service, Taste
FINALLY ate at Locanda Verde for Emily’s birthday. I’ve been trying for so long to either get a reservation, coordinate with friends, or actually get my bum to Tribeca for quite some time. First thing you notice about Locanda Verde is how busy it actually is. Our reservation for 6:15 pm (relatively early) saw a herd of humans at the sexy bar. I could hardly get past all the tall, preppy businessmen to go downstairs for the ladies room.
(Sorry for the terrible pictures. I didn’t want to be rude in a place so busy!)
The restaurant is beautiful but not exactly warm and inviting. There’s a lot of wood and metal going on everywhere. The mix of dark colors and indirect lighting gives the dining room a romantic-but-not-trying-too-hard kind of feeling, which is appropriate for dates, business dinners, and really, anything. I was surprised how cold the restaurant seemed, and I’m not talking about the temperature. I guess the light rain had something to do with my mood, but I didn’t feel relaxed in this restaurant. And you know me, at a good restaurant, I’m in my prime.
It didn’t help that our server was semi-blunt and didn’t smile once. Even at McDonalds, I can usually get a smile with my happy meal. So if I’m paying $70+/person per meal, I better get some sort of delight, charm, or wit. To be fair, she answered all our question and took down our order correctly. However, she took forever to get my black coffee (just pour it into the cup), and I was three-quarters of the way through with my dessert by the time it got to our table. And NO ONE messes with me and my dessert…
Okay, let’s get to the food. Emily and I ordered a lot of items on the menu, but it didn’t turn out to be too filling. The restaurant is all about family style. So am I!
For appetizers, we ordered the Lamb Meatball Sliders (very popular). These meatballs were very cute. I can see why they would do well on the menu, especially with all the business-types at the restaurant. There really wasn’t a distinct lamb taste (good thing) or any special flavors for that matter. The slider bread had a hint of sweetness, and the pickle really gave this slider any taste at all. The meatball was very greasy. I had oil running down my hands from holding the slider up to my mouth. Perhaps I had them on an off-night in the kitchen, but I wouldn’t order them again.
We also shared the Burrata, my favorite dish of the night. Burrata is an Italian cheese that reminds me of watery poached eggs. It was very creamy and resembled mozzarella. The eggplant was cooked in a very flavorful mixture of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and olive oil. The incredibly soft cheese was both heavy in the creamy flavor and light in its chilled, egg white-like texture. Together, the burrata and eggplant “calabrese” was phenomenal: a little spicy, salty, peppery, olive-y, basil-y, and a lot more -y words. Think of eggplant Calabrese as Italian ratatouille.
We shared two pastas: My Grandmother’s Ravioli and Slow-Braised Veal Pappardelle. My Grandmother’s Ravioli was definitely not cooked by my grandmother. Because even being an ancient Chinese woman, my grandmother could probably make better ravioli than Andrew Carmellini, chef de cuisine at Locanda Verde. Emily and I couldn’t understand why the ravioli filling was tasteless and dinky-sized. The sauce was quite obviously made from fresh tomatoes, but that couldn’t take away from the fact that the ravioli was so bland and pathetic. To this day (it has only been one day…), Emily and I can’t figure out what was in the ravioli. It could have been beef, pork, or frog for all we know! The most disappointing part about the ravioli is that it’s supposed to be one of the best things on the menu. It really didn’t live up to all or any of the hype.
We did better with the Slow-Braised Veal Pappardelle but not much. The meat was cooked perfectly minus one thing: taste. How could such delicious tender meat go to waste because the cook forgot to add something to give it flavor? The sauce was an indescribable plum brown color, thin, and a little gummy. I think the pasta wasn’t cooked right, so the sauce congealed. The pappardelle (a flat and wide ribbon pasta) seemed homemade, but unfortunately, it was a little overcooked. Sad, sad day when people overboil fresh pasta.
Our contorni (side) was a Steamed or Boiled Spinach with Fried Chickpeas and Ricotta Salata. The Spinach wasn’t properly drained, so the fried chickpeas became soggy very soon after the dish was served. The ricotta salata did nothing for me. I can appreciate lightly-flavored cheeses, but this shredded version didn’t do anything for me but add some salty flavors to quell my taste buds. This side dish is so boring. I’m so confused right now.
Dessert was much butter than the entrées. Emily’s Banana Walnut Brown Butter Cake was essentially a semi-warm piece of banana bread but a pretty good one at that. I think the cake was over-baked, because it seemed a little dry (especially along the edges). My Ricotta Cheesecake with fresh rhubarb and rhubarb sorbet was quite delicious. The cheesecake seemed to be made of gelatin, but maybe the cheese was just kind of jiggly. The chilled cake was very creamy and rich but no where near close to a Junior’s cheesecake. I’ve never had fresh rhubarb before, but I wasn’t very impressed with this fruit. It’s kind of crunchy like sugar cane, but you can actually swallow it. The rhubarb sorbet and sauce were very nice. Not too sweet or tart. They complimented the cheesecake very well.
I’m done with Tribeca! Bubby’s didn’t do it for me, nor did Locanda Verde. Goodbye!!