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Dinner at Gnocco

  • Cuisine: Italian, small plates
  • Atmosphere: rustic, outdoor space, maze-like
  • Attire: smart-casual
  • Ideal for: small groups, 1x1, outdoor dining, location (across street from Tompkins Sq. Park), small plates
  • Price: affordable to moderate; all menu items under $26 
  • Phone: 212-677-1913
  • Location: 337 E. 10th Street (between Avenues A & B)
  • Website: click *here*
  • Directionswww.hopstop.com/?city=newyork

    *All photos from this meal can be viewed on Flickr

    Since Em was away for my "real" birthday, she promised to make up for it with a celebratory meal upon her return.  And, in staying true to her word, we met for dinner at Gnocco just three days after I turned 30.

    Perhaps it was the fact that Gnocco is situated across the street from Tompkins Square Park that inspired Em and I to be seated in the restaurant's hidden back garden.  We certainly were not intimidated by that particular evening's smoldering heat, at least not until we sat down.  As beads of sweat rolled down our extremities, Em and I fell prey to the famous saying, "if you can't take the heat, get your ass out the kitchen."  Within minutes of throwing a humidity-induced hissy fit, we were whisked away to a brand new two-top table.  Indoors.

    Dinner at Gnocco: outdoor garden diningDinner at Gnocco: view from our table indoorsEmily and I each began our meal with a glass of wine as we perused Gnocco's dinner menu.  Since so many of the offerings caught our attention, we chose to split various appetizer and entree plates. 

    Moments after placing our order in its entirety, we received a basket of shamefully-dry bread.  Thankfully, we did not have to wait too long for our appetizers to arrive.

    Dinner at Gnocco: driest bread this side of matzoh crackersOur two appetizers arrived simultaneously:

    Gnocco (the restaurant's namesake): we couldn't have dinner at Gnocco and not order its namesake appetizer - plus, who can say "no" to fried dough and Italian cold cuts?  Not I. 

    If any of you are familiar with Indian poori, or a Mexican sopapilla, then you're getting warm.  "Gnocco fritto" shares the same concept (diamond-shaped dough that is deep fried - resulting in a hollow and pillowy puff) however, unlike the traditionally sweet sopapilla, this version is savory. 

    Served alongside (the fried dough) is a plate of thinly-sliced cold cuts - such as salami and prosciutto - which will ultimately be stuffed inside of the warm gnocco.

    • Dinner at Gnocco: gnocco frittoDinner at Gnocco: assortment of sliced Italian meats to be stuffed inside of the gnocco fritto

    Fried artichoke hearts: this particular appetizer was the special of the evening, therefore it was not listed on the menu.  A large plate was topped with a pile of warm, crispy, and hefty sliced-artichoke hearts that were suffocating under two slices of tepid white cheese.  The delicate, passive flavors of the 'chokes were offensively overpowered by the accompanying dipping sauce that was laced with pungent black peppercorns.  

    • Dinner at Gnocco: fried artichoke appetizer

    Post-appetizers, Em and I didn't have to wait long for our pasta/entree courses to arrive.  We split the following three plates:

    Mezzi Rigatoni Con Salsiccia E Broccoli / rigatoni pasta with spicy Italian sausage and broccoli rabe

    • Dinner at Gnocco: rigatoni pasta with spicy Italian sausage and broccoli rabe

    Gnocchi Al Pomodoro E Mozzarella Di Bufala / homemade potato gnocchi with tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and basil

    • Dinner at Gnocco: homemade potato gnocchi with tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and basil

    Tagliatelle Al Ragu con Piselli / home made tagliatelle pasta with veal ragu and green peas

    • Dinner at Gnocco: home made tagliatelle pasta with veal ragu and green peas

    Em and I found the pastas rather mediocre, as each dish contained at least one faux-pas:

    1. Mezzi Rigatoni Con Salsiccia E Broccoli: the sausage was too gristly
    2. Gnocchi Al Pomodoro E Mozzarella Di Bufala: while I appreciated the fact that the gnocchi were homemade, their texture was doughy.  Furthermore, the tomato sauce tasted like undiluted Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup - awkwardly sweet and runny
    3. Tagliatelle Al Ragu con Piselli: no complaints aside from our personal aversion to green peas

    Conclusion: while I enjoyed my overall experience at Gnocco, I don't see myself in any sort of rush to return - there are simply too many Italian restaurants to check off on my "must try" list.

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