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Wednesday
Mar172010

CLOSED: Dinner at Lusso: 14-courses (7 food, 7 drink) of heaven

  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Occasion: 1x1/small groups, hidden gem, extensive Italian beer list (make sure to try the chestnut brew), great date spot, wonderful/convenient location
  • Price: all items on Lusso's dinner menu are under $30
  • Phone: (212) 431-0131
  • Website: www.lussonyc.com
  • Location: 331 W. Broadway (at Grand Street )

Aside from the fact that "Little Italy" is merely a stone's throw away, the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan is liberally dotted with Italian restaurants.  So, how does one decipher which venues are worth their time and money, when the options seem infinite?

After learning of Lusso’s proclamation in having “the most extensive Italian beer selection” in all of the five boroughs, Matt and I were eager to make the trip downtown.  We arranged to meet at Lusso around 8:30pm last Friday, which also happened to be day-one (of three) of the region’s most belligerent and violent rain storms.  As fate would have it, Matt was running approximately 30 minutes behind, while I arrived five-minutes shy of 8:30pm.  After making my way through Lusso’s entrance, I was warmly greeted by Michael, the owner, who led me to our table.  As I waited for Matt to arrive, Michael kept me company.  We chatted about the restaurant industry, Michael’s prior background in construction, the crappy weather, etc.  I was shocked to learn that Lusso opened its doors to the public in January of 2009, the epicenter of the financial crisis.  What surprised me even more was the fact that, despite Friday’s grim weather forecast, the restaurant was approximately three-fourth’s of the way full.  I was impressed by this knowledge and eager to taste, sip and experience Lusso for myself.

Matt appeared just before 9pm, making a mad dash to our table with a drenched umbrella and a ravenous appetite.  Luckily, a basket of freshly-sliced artisanal white bread, a side of whipped butter, and two glasses of chilled water promptly arrived.   

Lusso: Freshly sliced bread and whipped butterI had a tough time deciding which was more attractive: Matt, my adorable dinner date, or Lusso’s dark, sexy space.

Lusso: interior spaceLusso: interior spacePer Michael's (the owner) suggestion, Matt and I chose to forego ordering from the traditional a-la-carte (menu) selections, and opted instead for the chef's tasting menu + Italian beer pairings.  *Note: while I'm not a "beer drinker," per se, the Italian brews that were paired with each of our 7-courses were truly unique and worthy of conversion

The first course we received was two perfectly seared, golden-brown-encrusted scallops that were plated atop a fragrant puree of truffle and artichoke; finished with crispy artichoke chips.  This dish was perfect in every regard, from the intense range of flavors to the bountiful melange of textures.  When I close my eyes to go to sleep at night, Lusso's scallops are one of the last things on my mind before I drift off in to oblivion.

Lusso: two scallops served atop a truffle-artichoke puree - finished with crispy artichoke chipsLusso's scallops: love at first bite - recently added to my hypothetical list of "if you were on death row, what would you request for your final meal?"The second course we were served was a Seafood Salad: bite-sized pieces of shrimp, calamari and sweet green olives were tossed in a light citrus vinaigrette; the plate was finished with crisp endive leaves and small dollops of black olive tapenade.  While I'm not a fan of calamari, I enjoyed every other component of this salad.

Lusso: seafood salad (shrimp & calamari)The third course we received was the Gnocchi: each potato dumpling had a crisp, golden-brown crust which led me to believe that the pasta had been pan-sauteed with its harmonious ingredients - pancetta, green peas and "hen of the woods" mushrooms.  Shavings of rich parmesan cheese crowned the the gnocchi.

Lusso: gnocchi with pancetta, green peas and "hen of the woods" mushroomsThe fourth course we were served was the grilled Branzino (sea bass: delicate & flaky white flesh), which was topped with an intensely flavorful bouquet of roasted pine nuts, radicchio, fennel and Cerignola olives; finished with slices of grilled lemon.  Of all the larger plates we tasted, this dish was my absolute favorite.  I would return to Lusso solely for this incredibly prepared Branzino.  

Lusso: grilled branzino (fish) topped with pine nuts, green olives, capers, radicchio and fennelThe fifth course we were served was the (biggest piece of) apple and marscapone-glazed Pork Belly, which was plated atop a garden of pan-seared Brussels sprout leaves.  

Lusso: pork belly served atop Brussels sprout leaves The sixth, and final, savory course we were served was an amply-sized veal chop - plated atop sliced radicchio leaves and a shallow pool of jus - that was stuffed with lardo (lard), fresh mozzarella cheese and minced herbs.  Though the veal was cooked slightly more than what I personally prefer, I found this dish to be very well-executed.  I had never seen, or, if I had (and did not recall), thought to order a stuffed veal chop prior to my supper at Lusso.      

Lusso: stuffed veal chop

Dessert course: strawberry cheesecake, homemade tiramisu

Both of these house-made treats were worth every last calorie and whatever tiny amount of room that was left in my overly-stuffed stomach.

Lusso: homemade strawberry-topped cheesecakeLusso: homemade tiramisu, recipe courtesy of Chef's grandmotherLusso: a closer look at both desserts, strawberry cheesecake & tiramisuOh, what a sweet meal it was!  Matt and I spent our entire evening being royally served by Lusso's gracious staff and outstanding cuisine.  I highly recommend that you make your way to this Soho gem before (even more of) the proverbial "word" gets out.   

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