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« Recipe: Corn Salsa | Main | Dinner at Dinosaur BBQ »
Wednesday
Jun222011

Palma: Sicily, by way of Cornelia Street

  • Restaurant  Palma
  • Cuisine  Italian
  • Location  28 Cornelia St. (between Bleeker & West 4th Streets), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-691-2223  
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  romantic, tranquil, transporting, full bar, outdoor seating, intimate
  • Attire  smart casual
  • Ideal for  small groups, 1x1, romantic dates
  • Price  moderate

Palma is the type of restaurant where, when you tell any one of your friends who*actually* reside in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan about it, each person seems to respond with the same facial expression.  That crazed look that just screams, "Are you out of your damn mind?  Hello, I LIVE in the West Village and know of every restaurant around here."  With legitimate curiosity, this awkward reaction is typically followed by that person asking what street Palma is located on; to which I respond,  with the slightest air of confidence, "Cornelia Street.  Why, d'you know it?"  No one ever does.  Know of the restaurant, that is. 

Hence, Palma remains a hidden West Village gem. 

Now, I'll be honest: it wasn't Palma's menu, or her specialty in Italian cuisine, that initially seduced me.  No, it was the photographs I had seen of her tranquil, Mediterranean farmhouse-influenced indoor/outdoor spaces.  See for yourself:

Tres romantique, non?From the moment I stepped in to Palma, I knew that, for at least the next few hours of my life, I was in for something special.  Not only was I completely entranced by the restaurant's transporting charm and seduction, but I was also looking forward to being accompanied by my favorite wedded couple, Megan & Hung.

Just after 8pm, the three of us were seated at a cozy 4-top.  Our table was promptly topped with food menus, a wine/cocktail list, and a basket of sliced focaccia bread and chunky eggplant caponata.

The eggplant caponata was so fragrant, voluptuous in texture, and hearty, that I ate it by the forkful - sans bread, with which it came accompanied.  "Sorry guys, but the bread just dumbs down the flavor," I blurted, mid-bite.  "I hope I'm not grossing y'all out."  Both Megan and Hung smiled awkwardly - quickly glanced at one another - and then continued to watch me shove forkful after forkful of eggplant in to my mouth.  It couldn't have been pretty.

With our wine glasses filled, we perused Palma's organic Italian menu and decided to split three appetizers and order individual entrees.

Appetizers

Polpettine Di Carne  While I loved the fact that these homemade meatballs were flatter and more patty-like than what I was envisioning, the actual meat that they were composed of had a very unpleasant, gristly, rancid "fat" aftertaste.  While the warm tomato-sauce pond aided in disguising the flavor, there was only so much that it could do.  After two bites, I gave up. 

Cavolfiore Palma  Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that you cannot really appreciate until you've eaten it cooked vs. raw.  Why?  Because, in its naked/natural/raw state, cauliflower tastes like total shit cardboard.  However, when sauteed with olive oil and/or butter, this awkward vegetable is instantly transformed from a caterpillar in to a butterfly.  Magic! 

Palma's version was tossed with earthy roasted pine nuts and sweet, plump currants.

Arancini Siciliani  What's not to love about fried, cheese-stuffed rice?  Palma uses saffron risotto, cooked to a perfect al-dente, and a pungent Italian cheese to make their golden, golf ball-sized, arancini (fried rice balls). 

Entree

Pappardelle Ragu D'Agnello  Pappardelle noodles are my favorite type of pasta because, more often than not, they're homemade at the respective restaurant.  Their shape, similar to long hair ribbons, reminds me of my childhood (wearing braids, pony-tails, pig tails, and accessorizing with colorful hair ribbons). 

Hearty chunks of tender, braised lamb were the spotlight of the savory ragu, followed by nibs of carrots, tomato and the slightest essence of red wine.  Freshly-grated parmesan cheese and roasted cherry tomatoes crowned the pappardelle. 

~

Conclusion  There were a couple of misses, but mostly a lot of hits at my recent dinner at Palma.  The restaurant has an inexplicable charm and seduction - one in which even the most descriptive words cannot do it much justice. 

Curious?  Make the journey and discover this hidden West Village gem for yourself!

~~~

Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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