These intricate little creations are the handiwork of Joey Campanaro, who used to work for Danny Abrams (the Harrison, the Red Cat) and who has perfected that chef’s uniquely pleasing American bistro style. Fans of the Harrison will recognize the grilled New York strip, which Campanaro muffles in a pile of radicchio sautéed with pancetta. The pork chop is a variation of the legendary Red Cat chop, embellished here with hints of fennel, a tangle of dandelion leaves, and soft Parmesan-soaked butter beans. The fish of the day I sampled on one visit was a giant red snapper, served with the head on, with a chaste bowl of olives and celery on the side, and the chicken is suitably crispy and garnished with a toss of asparagus and home fries. Dessert (raspberry beignets, custard tarts, a “brownie cake” served with store-bought gelato) is the only time the Little Owl betrays its small-restaurant roots. Still, considering the price, even they’re not so bad. At $7 apiece, any two of them cost less than a cocktail at many of the hot new restaurants around town.
Address: 1402 Lexington Ave., nr. 92nd St. 212-831-1402
Hours: Lunch, Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers, $8 to $12. Entrées, $16 to $26.
Ideal Meal: Antipasti, sea-urchin spaghetti, Swiss-chard-wrapped polpette, stuffed zucchini blossoms, fruit tart.
Note: Until the house gets its liquor license, try the liquor store two blocks south, on the east side of Lexington Avenue.
The Little Owl
Address: 90 Bedford St., nr. Grove St.; 212-741-4695
Hours: Dinner, Monday through Wednesday, 5 to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday to midnight. Sunday to 10 p.m. Brunch, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Prices: Appetizers, $7 to $14. Entrées, $17 to $26.
Ideal Meal: Crispy soft-shell crab, pork chop, warm brownie cake.
Note: The wine list offers a nice selection of half-bottles, and the big bottles are generally well chosen and never over $100.
Sfoglia: Maybe it’s the Nantucket connection, but the combination of first-class farm-stand ingredients and artful cooking make this little restaurant special.
The Little Owl: Three stars for the pork chop, in particular, but desserts tend to be the Achilles’ heel of small restaurants, and they bring everything down a notch.