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Dinner on the cheap at Del Posto, 4/16/09

  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Atmosphere: grand, spacious, dramatic interior decor, Vegas opulence, bi-level space
  • Attire: business-casual
  • Ideal for: business meals, group dining, celebratory meal, grab a pricey drink, cougars
  • Must try: Lardo spread (arrives with bread basket); Sunchoke Crudo/carpaccio; Bomboloni; Petite-four platter (ask for this if you’re in the entoteca, as it’s only given in the main dining room)
  • Price: A-la-carte menu items are very expensive, so opt for prix-fixe to get the most “bang for your buck”
  • Reservations: Accepted by phone or via: http://www.opentable.com/
  • Phone: (212) 497-8090 Website: http://www.delposto.com/
  • Location: 85 10th Avenue, (Btw 15th & 16th St.)

I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do between the time I got off of work (5pm) and my 6:15pm dinner reservation at Del Posto; I knew that I’d have at least forty-five minute’s worth of time to kill. When I got off of the subway near the Meatpacking District, I remembered that the Chelsea Market was only one avenue away from the restaurant. Having not been in years, I had forgotten just how incredible the Market was: A vast space filled with a variety of specialty food and culinary shops that were housed under one roof. There aren’t many other places in the world that bring me as much happiness as being in the Chelsea Market.

After a thirty-minute rendezvous at the Chelsea Market, I walked over to Del Posto and decided to grab a drink at the bar. It was only 6:00, and Linda (my dining partner) and my reservation wasn’t until 6:15. After sipping nearly half a glass of moscato d’ asti (yes, I take my sweet wine with or without dessert, thank you very much), Linda arrived and we were promptly seated in the restaurant’s enoteca (the space in the restaurant serving less expensive prix-fixe meal options). *For those of you who have not been to Del Posto, here’s a tidbit of information that you may want to take note of: The enoteca is currently running a “recession special prix-fixe menu,” that includes four courses for $35/person (a great deal compared with the nightly $52/person 5-course menu). Unfortunately, this special is not published on the restaurant’s website or menus, so make sure to inquire with your waiter.

Within minutes of being seated, a bountiful basket of house-made bread arrived with a side of butter and lardo (lard). Having heard so much about this spreadable animal fat, I knew that I had to at least try it. What I imagined tasting like solidified bacon grease turned out to be much smoother and more delicate, with a subtle note of rosemary. After my first bite, I actually preferred the lardo to butter.

After placing our 4-course orders, the antipasti promptly arrived. Spread like a slim deck of cards were thinly sliced sunchokes topped with walnut crumbles and truffled fonduta cheese. Mr. Batali does wonders with vegetables and salads (Winter Vegetables Salad at Babbo; vegetable sides at Otto), and this dish was no exception.

The only difference between Del Posto’s 5-course prix-fixe menu (for $52/person) and the 4-course “recession menu” is: The participating table must choose one primi (pasta course) served “family style” (as opposed to each guest choosing their own). Linda and I unanimously decided on the Garganelli al ragu Bolognese. While the ragu was among the best I’ve had (robust, savory and meaty), I found the homemade spinach noodles to have a “fishy” aftertaste. I pushed the pasta aside with my fork, and used the homemade bread to sop up all of the ethereal Bolognese sauce.

Though I felt like a bad Jew for having ordered the “Pork Arista” as my entrée, our waiter said that it was one of his two favorite dishes. He irresistibly described how the meat sat atop a pumpkin puree and was finished with garlic and mushrooms. Upon cutting in to my first bite of pork, I knew that the pig had been overcooked. Though having a perfectly seasoned and caramelized crust, the meat was simply too tough. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

All of the desserts on the menu looked fantastic, though I was craving a simple bowl of gelato. I received two-scoops each of vanilla and chocolate, beautifully topped with a slice of homemade biscotti. Linda, who had previously dined in Del Posto’s main room, asked our adorable waiter-in-training if guests in the enoteca received complimentary petit fours (as those in the main dining room do). He smiled and said, “Let me see what I can do.” Moments later, a plate filled with an assortment of house made treats, including shortbread, lemon squares and pate de fruit, arrived before our eyes (thanks again, Daniel M.!). Upon receiving our bill, I wasn’t sure which was more enticing: The price of our meal or the decadent plate of sweets.

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