CLOSED: Dinner at Via Dei Mille: first anniversary party
Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 7:24PM
The Lady Who Lunches in RIP: NYC restaurant cemetary, Restaurant reviews

*All of my photos from this meal can be viewed on Flickr

Background: So here’s the 4-11: Dara, my friend and fellow food blogger, invited me as her +1 to Via Dei Mille’s “Star Studded (first) Birthday Bash.”  The soiree simultaneously served as a pseudo coming-out party for VdM’s (short for Via Dei Mille) new executive chef, Emanuel Concas, and his recently-updated menu.
What’s the space like?
Located on the ground floor of a non-descript brownstone in Soho (that closer resembles a building façade on Boston’s famous Newbury Street); VdM’s exterior exudes a modest presence.  A simple awning denoting the restaurant’s name is the only visible signage.  Once inside, however, VdM’s flamboyant personality is positively intoxicating.  Think: spacious “r” shaped dining room complete with a full bar; rustic hardwood flooring throughout; stark white tablecloths and globe-shaped vases filled with freshly-cut red roses; romantic/sexy dim lighting courtesy of tea candles and a myriad of crystal chandeliers; walls adorned with risqué local pop-art (think portraits of screen vixen, Megan Fox) that lead to 20-feet-tall painted-ceilings; and (screeeeeeeeeeeeech!!) a small DJ booth complete with an MC spinning the latest chart-topping tunes.

 

How was the service?
All of the servers were tall-dark-and-handsome young men with the most captivating, amped-up Italian accents.  Where they just actors?  Maybe, but they had me fooled.  Our waiter was very attentive (no drink was ever empty) and got every aspect of our order correct. 
What were you sipping?
I alternated between flutes of prosecco and traditional Bellini’s.
How was the food?  
Formaggi platter (grana padano, Gorgonzola): Dara and I decided to split a platter of cheeses to whet our appetites.  She chose the more dense grana padano, while I selected the robust and creamy Gorgonzola.  The platter was nothing special in terms of the cheeses or the buttery toast points, but what I simply could not get enough of was the accompanying tomato marmalade.  Both sweet and savory with a soft jelly-like texture and robust tomato-ey flavor, when paired with cheese, the marmalade’s sweetness cut straight through the pungency.  What a spectacular twist on your everyday fruit jam!  I wonder if VdM sells this stuff by the jar.  Hmmmm.   



Grilled sausage with broccoli rabe: To further whet our appetites, Dara and I each ordered our very own antipasti.  After reading the description, I couldn’t resist the visual I had conjured up in my head of “grilled Italian sausage and broccoli rabe.”  And what I was served was just as delicious as I what I had hoped for.  Perched atop a grilled and halved link of Italian sausage was a tangled mound of sautéed wilted greens liberally dotted with slices of roasted garlic.   



Pappardelle alla Bolognese: Handmade pappardelle pasta ribbons came pre-tossed (not slopped with a ladle of sauce) with one of the best Bolognese sauces I’ve tasted of late.  I’d stake my life on the assumption that the robust tomato gravy had been simmering all day in anticipation of the evening’s dinner service.  Perfectly spiced notes of garlic, salt, fresh pepper and Parmigiano reggiano infused the ground veal with just enough flavor as to not overpower the delicate meat.  I would return to VdM solely for this entree.  Truly a noteworthy, excellent preparation of my favorite pasta dish.    

 

Desserts: panna cotta and a chocolate cake: Both of these sweet treats were fine/passable, but neither shined in any way shape or form.  I was taken aback by the two scoops of overly-pungent mint chocolate chip gelato that accompanied the chocolate cake.  The chewing-gum flavor completely dumbed down any noticeable trace of chocolate.  Had the gelato been a more subtle vanilla or hazelnut, this classic dessert would have been quite delicious.  While there was nothing wrong with the panna cotta, there wasn’t much pizazz to it, either.  Its gelatinous, vanilla pudding-like consistency and lackluster flavor reminded me of lunches I shared with my great grandmother at her nursing home.            



Will you return to Via Dei Mille?
If I’m in the neighborhood, I would definitely return to VdM, especially for their knockout Pappardelle alla Bolognese.  Additionally, I love the charming interior space and haute geographical location.  However, there are a couple of reasons why I would not put VdM on my personal list of destination-worthy restaurants:

xx,
TLB

P.S. For menus and addresses: http://www.menupages.com/

P.S.S. Mass transit directions: http://www.hopstop.com/?city=newyork

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