38 Eighth Ave., nr. Jane St.; 212-366-6633
For what essentially is an old way to utilize stale bread, bruschetta sure is having a moment. Inventive (and often non-Italian) variations on the garlic-rubbed theme are everywhere these days, from a tongue-topped version at Mia Dona to a spicy shrimp number at the haute Indian restaurant Dévi. You’ll find the most innovative approach, though, at Dell’anima, in the West Village. While purist bruschette cooks go the chopped-tomato route and others stick to a single signature topping their whole careers, chef Gabe Thompson’s inspired toppings change daily and seasonally and run the gamut from beet greens to bone-marrow custard. We’re particularly fond of his octopus (diced then mingled with fennel, chiles, and preserved citrus) and the baccalà mantecato. Best of all is the do-it-yourself construction: You choose from one to five different toppings delivered to your table in separate bowls along with a stack of warm, garlic-and-olive-oil-brushed bread, and then you slather away at will. It’s—yes, we’ll say it—the toast of the town.
So what exactly does “best” mean in a city with thousands of pizza joints, hundreds of celebrity masseuses, and museum-worthy concept shops on every corner? Well, in the case of this, our annual “Best of New York” roundup, there’s a heavy emphasis on what’s new or what has somehow remained virtually unheard of (until now, of course).