Saturday, October 3, 2009

Locanda Verde - Greenwich St & N. Moore St

Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich St

Almost three years ago, I had the ricotta cheese at A Voce, and still haven’t been able to get it out of my head. When news broke that Andrew Carmellini had left his chef position at A Voce, I was worried that he’d take the recipe with him and I might never be able to enjoy it again, that I’d missed my chance!

Carmellini did take this recipe with him, but fortunately for me, he’s back in the kitchen at Robert De Niro’s new restaurant, Locanda Verde, and he brought his amazing ricotta with him! Situated in the same space where former disaster Ago was located, Locanda Verde is a family-style restaurant in TriBeCa that is more “dark wood and fire”-Italian than “checked tablecloths”-Italian, with a menu that’s truly built for sharing. Salty focaccia topped with fresh tomatoes and herbs is served in lieu of a bread basket, and tastes even better with a little ricotta spread on top!

I’ve mentioned this ricotta three times now, so I think it deserves some description - a sheep’s milk ricotta with sea salt and herbs, this amazingly light, fresh cheese is fantastic when sprinkled with just a little olive oil and thickly spread over slabs of grilled country bread. If Locanda Verde were closer to home, I might stop in and eat this every day!

The menu reflects Locanda Verde’s heavy Italian influence, with many dishes listed in Italian and the menu broken up into cicchetti (appetizers), antipasti (first course), pasta, secondi (second course), and contorni (sides). Particularly notable appetizers include the lamb meatball sliders and (of course!) the ricotta, but the grilled octopus appetizer is cooked perfectly (no rubbery calamari tendrils here!) and an order of lightly fried artichoke hearts is well complemented by a side of yoghurt and mint.

Carmellini’s hearty and passionate cooking has helped to earn him his well-deserved reputation as a pasta genius. His maltagliati, a roughly-cut, flat pasta, is served with pesto, heirloom tomatoes, and olives, and is finished with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. It is so fresh and the colors are so vibrant, eating this dish really tastes like walking through a garden.

Maltagliati with pesto and parmigiano-reggiano

The extra-wide pappardelle noodles with lamb Bolognese are topped with a generous portion of ricotta, and the gigantone (huge, thick, al dente tubes of pasta) is drenched in “Sunday night ragù”, thick with stick-to-your-ribs pork.

Left: Pappardelle with lamb Bolognese, mint, and sheep’s milk ricotta; Right: Gigantone with Sunday night ragù and provolone picante

Secondi plates are seafood dishes like halibut and scallops, and meat dishes like duck, veal cheeks, and porchetta. The fire-roasted garlic chicken for two is the real stand-out, though - it’s a whole roasted bird with crispy skin and loads of garlic and herbs. The table next to ours ordered this and the wonderful smell of sweet, roasted garlic turned the heads of every diner it passed on its way out of the kitchen!

Desserts here are not to be overlooked - pastry chef Karen Demasco has crafted a wonderful menu, void of cliché tiramisus and full of beautifully rustic desserts like almond semifreddo, chocolate torta, and a pistachio brown butter cake with seasonal fruits and pistachio gelato.

Pistachio brown butter cake, with plums and nectarines, and pistachio gelato

Locanda Verde has a strong selection of cheeses, but the waitstaff should be more knowledgeable about them - when asked for a recommendation for a semi-soft, earthy cheese or “anything that’s not blue cheese”, they pointed us toward the Gorgonzola Cremificato and the Blue di Moncenisio... two blue cheeses. We made a lucky guess, though, and stumbled across a fantastic cheese that was exactly what we were looking for.

Meadow Creek Dairy Grayson, a washed-rind, semi-soft cheese, with sweet and nutty tones - served with raw honey, spicy nuts, and fruit-and-nut bread

A visit to Locanda Verde is like eating with your Italian grandmother - you’re served more food than you can possibly eat, but you find yourself devouring every last bite. I can’t wait to be back!


  1. I've heard good things about Locanda Verde, but your pictures really reinforce all the great reviews! Will have to make a visit there sometime.

  2. I barely even like ricotta, but this post has made me CRAVE it. I've been meaning to go to Locanda, anyway, but this has sealed the deal.

  3. I wanna go!!! You know i can't resist a huge bowl of excellent pasta... or focaccia... or a big leafy salad. Okay, so basically I can't wait to come home, and I want to visit you.
    Oh life is too hectic.