Last month Jason and I were gifted a prime time reservation at Mario Batali’s restaurant Del Posto in the Meatpacking District. The avid Mario fans that we are, we jumped on a chance to try out one of the few Batali joints at which we have not yet feasted. As you can see, we couldn’t have been happier in our anticipation as we drove into the city.
After some initial trouble finding a space, we proceeded onward and punctually entered the restaurant. The space is hands down the most elegant of all his restaurants. It’s large and spacious relative to his other outposts, most likely due to the less than central location all the way on the west side almost in the Hudson. Table stalking while we waited to be seated, I made a couple of initial observations:
1. The decor of the restaurant reminded me very much of Christmas time even though it was the middle of August. I think this was owed much to the string-light ornamented topiaries and the wooden banquettes. It seemed a bit anachronistic but warm nonetheless.
2. Instead of the much-loved Italian bread served wrapped in parchment paper that patrons are given at Batali’s other eateries like Babbo and Otto, each table had a bread basket with mini Baguettes and rolls. Also, instead of the beautiful La Mozza olive oil used as a dipper for the bread, there were little ramekins filled with what looked to me at the time like butter and anchovy butter which as will be explained in a bit, turned out to be so much more.
We were shown to our table about 15 minutes after our arrival and much to our delight, were seated on the second level which is basically a lofted area overlooking the first floor. We were then given our bread basket and it was explained to us that there was a spread of homemade sweet cream butter and a spread of lardo that was melted down with garlic and rosemary. Imagine our surprise (and Jason’s excitement!) when we heard that! Lardo is Jason’s favorite part of the Babbo salumi appetizer and to have it in spreadable form with garlic and rosemary was like music to our ears. I willfully passed up the butter for the lardo which was a bit salty, very creamy, and subtle on garlic and rosemary flavoring. I had to refrain from eating the entire bread basket which isn’t actually much of a shock but it took much more will power this time than most.
* side note: I apologize but despite the beauty of the food we ate, I didn’t take pictures because the restaurant was quite dark and the flash would have more certainly drawn unwanted attention onto ourselves. Going forward, I will throw caution to the wind for the sake of proper documentation. Back to the restaurant…
We were then showered with gifts of amuse bouches presented to us on three mini plates. There was a chilled vegetable broth with pesto, mini arancini, and both Jason and I cannot for the life of us recall the third one. The soup would have been better warm but was refreshingly simple. The mini arancini were perfectly fried and we would’ve requested more had we not thought they would thinkg us odd.
We ordered the yellowfin & tail susci with radish, fennel, snowpeas & violets to share as a starter. I feel ambivalent about this dish which came out tossed much like a salad. The fish was naturally of excellent quality, as were the accompanying vegetables but I’m not 100% sold on the combination. I feel the radish competed with the subtle sweetness of the fish but that could be due to my general distaste for radishes. The violets added a slight bitter flavor which was enough of a complementary flavor that the radishes were unnecessary. Overall the dish was enjoyed but I would not order it again.
The two pastas we ordered were the Del Posto Agnolotti Dal Plin and the Crisped Potato Gnocchi with Braised Pork Shoulder, Celery, and Nepitella. The agnolotti (pronounced anneeolottee) were stuffed with three kinds of braised meats and was in a simple brown butter sauce. This dish was divine and will definitely be ordered again on a return trip. The gnocchi (pronounced nyo key) was delicious as well but not particularly exceptional. The highlight of that dish was the pork shoulder which Jason thoroughly enjoyed.
We shared the secondi which we are apt to do and ordered lamb cooked two ways though now I cannot remember the two ways! I do recall that it was delicious though and had a texture unlike any other lamb dish I’ve ever eaten. It was very soft and not at all gamey. We enjoyed this dish but would most likely try another meat next time. The whole fish ordered by a table below us looked scrumptious as it was being de-boned by the waiter. See what I mean by table stalking?
For our desserts we ordered espressos and the assortment of gelato. The flavors were milk, vanilla, and coffee. The espressos were strong and yummy but the gelatos were a bit disappointing. The vanilla and milk tasted very similar and the coffee tasted very generic, unlike the wonderful and popular olive oil gelato served at Otto which is sublime. We did receive the customary plate of complimentary cookies with our coffee. It was delicious but I prefer the cookies in the Babbo cookie plate.
All in all, we enjoyed our night out at Del Posto where the food and service were both excellent. I have read reviews of the restaurant with complaints of over-priced food. I too would agree with those reviewers if ambience were not taken into the equation. The food and service was on par with both Babbo and Lupa but when it comes to environment, Del Posto is definitely more upscale. When that is factored in, I suppose one could say that Del Posto has a fair price to value ratio. Our overall assessment is that we would return here for another special date night, but definitely not before a couple of trips to our reigning Batali favorite, Babbo 🙂