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Paradise found: carb-o-holic euphoria at Da Andrea

  • Restaurant  Da Andrea
  • Cuisine  Italian
  • Location  35 W. 13th St. (between 5th & 6th Avenues), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-367-1979
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  rustic, romantic, casual, warm
  • Attire  smart casual
  • Ideal for  small groups, 1x1, date night, outdoor dining
  • Price  affordable

It's funny, because earlier in the day, I can remember racking my brain for an impromptu answer when someone asked me, "What is your favorite Italian restaurant in town?"  My response - a dear-in-headlights gaze and mouth agape - said it all...without having said nothing at all.  Obviously, I didn't have an answer.  But why not?  I mean, it's not like there's some shortage of Italian restaurants in Gotham.  After all, we pride ourselves on having introduced the rest of the country to the pizza (ahem, Lombardi's).  "Um, I dunno.  I guess I don't have one," I responded.  As fate would have it, that answer would soon change...

Linda, a former colleague of mine, and I met for dinner (at Da Andrea) on one of NYC's more trying summer nights.  Aside from the air being thick and the temperature steamy, the heavens decided to erupt in to a monsoon-like shower, conveniently amidst our walkable commute to the restaurant.  Despite these conditions, however, two of Da Andrea's outdoor tables were occupied by folks who were brave enough to trust that the overhead awning would not give way to the elements.   

Having arrived shortly after 6pm, Linda and I were able to walk in to Da Andrea and be seated immediately.  "A table for two, indoors, please." 

*Note: on any given night, from 6:30pm onward, I recommend making a reservation, as this restaurant is far too popular and fills up rather quickly.  And, just by looking around, you can see why: indoor/outdoor seating, exposed-brick walls, warm Tuscan color palette, romantic and charming atmosphere - all the while, exuding comfort and an overall casual elegance.   

Photo found on FlickrAfter catching up over a glass of house wine, Linda and I decided to place our appetizer and entree orders.  Shortly thereafter, we were presented with a basket of homemade focaccia bread and olive-dotted dipping oil.

Note what the menu reads about the pasta & focaccia :)

To start, we chose to split the "Le Tigelle" appetizer, which came highly recommended by reviewers on Menupages, Yelp and, the most highly acclaimed of all, our server.  Both big fans of gnocco fritto - the Italian dish of puffed, fried dough accompanied by cured meats - Linda and I could not resist the unique description of Da Andrea's version, which mentioned "baked to order flat buns" instead of the traditional gnocco, or fried dough. 

Warm, moist "buns," resembling hockey pucks, lay atop ribbons of prosciutto di Parma.  A small dish filled with parmesan cheese "snowflakes," accompanied.  With each bun, a sandwich was constructed from the salty ham and the cheese.  Because the bread was still relatively warm from the oven, the trio of components (bun, ham, cheese) fused together seamlessly and, quite literally, melted in our mouths. 

Narrowing Da Andrea's lengthy list of pasta dishes down to just two was no easy feat.  Linda and I had finally moved from five to four - four to three.  The Pappardelle was a given, but it would be up to our server to guide us in breaking the "tie" between Spaghetti with Bolognese sauce or the evening's special, risotto with mushrooms and bacon.  Without hesitation, he exclaimed, "risotto!"  And so it was, the pappardelle and the risotto.

When the pastas arrived, the pappardelle was placed in front of me, and the risotto in front of Linda.

Online reviewers had gone crazy over this particular dish, and I was very curious to see what all of the fuss was about.  Handmade pappardelle noodles were enveloped by a robust truffle oil-infused tomato ragout that was chock-full of sweet Italian sausage. 

The reviews of this dish were spot-on, making me glad that I did my re-con/homework prior to the meal: I found this pasta to be clean, sophisticated, and hearty without having an overwhelming truffle aftertaste which, believe it or not, can and does happen.

While this risotto was prepared to a perfect al dente and incorporated with ingredients that were nothing short of decadent - cream, bacon, sauteed mushrooms, parmesan cheese - I wasn't able to eat more than about five bites.  Calling this dish "rich" would be an understatement.  Whew!

After my meal at Da Andrea, I realized that I had an answer to the question that I was asked earlier that same day: I literally, finally found my favorite Italian restaurant in town.  Here's why Da Andrea is my #1:

  • Charming, romantic space and relatively casual atmosphere
  • Great location (for me)
  • Relatively friendly, knowledgeable, prompt service
  • Indoor/outdoor seating
  • Affordable food and wine
  • Homemade bread and pasta

What's your favorite Italian in town?


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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