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Where to Eat 2015

The Platt List


The pork chop at Upland.  

The Mini Italian Renaissance

With the endless barrage of dining trends, it’s been fashionable in some quarters of the food universe to declare, as one of my jaded web colleagues did recently, that “Italian food is so over these days.” Well, don’t tell that to the former Michael White disciple Chris Jaeckle, who conjures all sorts of sophisticated Modern Venetian pasta creations, with the help of the old front-of-the-house pro Chris Cannon, at All’onda on 13th Street, just south of Union Square. The smoked-uni-laced bucatini is the dish that gets all the press at this bustling little spot, but the one I like is the spaghetti alla chitarra that Jaeckle and his cooks fold with a lemony cream sauce and top with crumblings of peekytoe crab. The atmosphere in the narrow two-floor space can get a little hectic during the crowded dinner service, so go at lunch, when you can complement the pastas and risottos with the impressive house burger, which Jaeckle tops with shredded radicchio, sweet onions tinged with red miso, and melting deposits of truffled “sottocenere” cheese from the Veneto. Next stop on the great Italian-revival tour is the gleaming, Williams & Sonoma–style dining room at Stephen Starr and Justin Smillie’s new Park Avenue restaurant, Upland. Smillie, who made his reputation roasting wheels of porchetta, among other rustico specialties, at Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria on Great Jones Street, claims that his theme here is “contemporary California cooking,” although the predictable stars of the show are the puffy Neapolitan pizzas (try the white truffle with stracciatella if truffles are still in season), the exceptional pastas (the classic bucatini alla carbonara, the cool uni-laced farro spaghetti), and an almost exact reprise of the satisfying, beautifully fired proteins (the vinegary “crackling” pork chop; the roasted short rib for two with olives and horseradish) that made him famous among members of the Italian cognoscenti down on Great Jones Street.

Andrew Carmellini serves a similarly robust roast-beef sandwich at his compact new franchise-ready pasta joint, Bar Primi, although you might want to save your calories for the seasonal bruschetta creations (with ricotta and figs), the pastas (the garlic-rich “four cloves” linguine), and, for dessert, the classically boozy, brick-size block of tiramisu, which is dusted with drifts of chocolate powder and packs as much booze as a large holiday toddy. Fans of Dave Pasternack’s seminal, endlessly imitated crudo creations can now enjoy a whole variety of artful raw-fish combinations (try the triggerfish tartare and a crudo of Spanish mackerel) dreamed up by the master himself at Barchetta, which has been doing a brisk business ever since it opened several months ago on the ground floor of London Terrace in Chelsea.

And if you’ve been pining for the taste of stuffed clams outside the sacred precincts of Arthur Avenue or Long Island, you could do an awful lot worse than the ones stuffed with drifts of pancetta and buttered bread crumbs that chef-owner Mike Price serves up lunchtimes at his aptly named new West Village restaurant, The Clam.

You’ll find exotic pizza combinations at Vicki Freeman and Marc Meyer’s comfortable new Great Jones Street restaurant, Vic’s, but the dishes I can’t wait to go back for are the more bulky rustico specialties (rabbit roulade with beets and sweet garlic; soft, apple-flavored roast pork) that the talented young chef, Hillary Sterling, executes with a refined touch.

For the ultimate in comforting, Nouveau Italian–style pulchritude, however, I recommend you join the rabble of pizza loons currently mobbing the somewhat sparsely appointed dining space at Marta, which Danny Meyer and his chef-partner Nick Anderer opened not long ago in the newly renovated lobby of the old Martha Washington Hotel on East 29th Street. The specialty of the house, as you’ve probably heard, are the crackly, wafer-thin pizzas, which Anderer adorns in various Roman styles with cremini mushrooms, crumblings of pork sausage, and a delicious carbonara-like mash of crushed potatoes, whipped egg, and guanciale. But the kitchen also produces excellent salads and perfectly pitched grilled treats like the lamb chops, and the prosciutto-stuffed trout saltimbocca, which you can complement, if you’re still standing, with a bite or two of the inspired house ice-cream panino for dessert, which the kitchen makes with smoked-mascarpone-flavored gelato, two chewy freshly baked chocolate cookies, and a coating of crushed pistachios.

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