Manhattan Meals #2: Lupa
After our delicious lunch and sugar high at Bouchon Bakery, the good eating continued at our dinner at Lupa! “Lupa” means “she-wolf” in Italian, and let me tell you, I was hungry like the she-wolf when I got a glimpse of the menu.
One of the many praised restaurants opened by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, it’s nestled onto a cozy side street in Greenwich Village, surrounded by brownstones and funky little shops. It had a really welcoming, casual appeal: the front facade of the restaurant opens directly onto a patio flanked in flowers and greenery, and the front room and bar area that you walk into upon entering is crammed full of butcher-block style tables, with exposed brick walls and wooden beams. I hear it gets pretty noisy and crowded on most nights, in the front room. We had made reservations which meant we sat in the back room, which had a more formal, quiet feel to it. If I were to go again, I actually think I’d rather sit in the front room — sure, it was louder and a bit more boisterous, but it had a convivial, warm feeling that was pretty nice.
Anyhow, the menu is full of seasonal, delicious choices, many locally sourced, in the style of a Roman trattoria. I had a really hard time deciding what to order — they make much of their own salumi, as well as pasta, and all of the vegetables featured were, I knew, going to be at the peak of their season and really tasty. So here we go…
(Oh, and I’ll just say right now, up front: the quality of the pictures below is, shall we say, less than ideal. The lighting in the room we were seated in was low and nice for ambiance, but not so much for good food photography.)
After we had some delicious, thick foccaccia and olive oil (whoops, no picture of that), B started with a market salad made with tender lettuces, cucumbers, and radishes that our waiter informed us “chef picked out at the market that morning.” It was topped with orange zest and was dressed with a light citrus vinaigrette. It was definitely good; B liked it but said he likes the salads I make even more. Awww…what a sweet talker. 🙂
I had one of THE BEST ASPARAGUS DISHES I HAVE EVER EATEN. EVER. It was listed very simply on the menu as “asparagus with pecorino” — unassuming, right? What followed was a little cup full of barely-blanched, thinly shaved asparagus pieces, dressed with super-delicious pecorino cheese and (I’m assuming) a little olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. I say “I’m assuming” because the cheese almost seemed like it was melted into a light vinaigrette — it coated the asparagus perfectly, and was so deliciously salty against the bright, crisp asparagus.
The only thing was that the top layer of asparagus had a lot of freshly ground black pepper on it, which, if you got a big mouthful, was enough to tickle your throat, and not really in a good way. And I normally don’t shy away from black pepper grindings. What made this kind of amusing, though, was that after I was well tucked into the bowl of asparagus and moaning sounds of delight (alternating with clearing my throat from the pepper) we overheard our waiter telling other tables that certain dishes were “aggressively seasoned with black pepper.” This was like the phrase of the night: we must have heard him say it at least 6 times, in reference to a few other dishes on the menu. I guess he had to set expectations.
I was really torn in ordering the asparagus appetizer, though, because I was *dying* to try some of the housemade salumi. But, one of the specials that night was a homemade orecchiette pasta tossed with sausage and arugula in a light butter sauce — problem solved! I’d get the cured meat and some fresh pasta. This orecchiette was so delicious: the little pasta ears were charmingly rustic-looking, tender but with a good bite to them. The sausage was some of the best I’ve had, and it was all tossed in a really light sauce, just enough to coat everything. Perfectly seasoned.
B ordered another special that night: house-made lamb sausage. Yes, we do like our sausage. 🙂 It came wound up in a pretty spiral, over a bed of lentils cooked with carrots and onions. Now: I have been operating under the assumption for many years that I don’t care for lamb. I think I was being a bit unfair — I’d only tried it once, in lamb vindaloo, and though I love Indian food I was not a fan of that vindaloo. This lamb sausage, however, was completely delicious. Did I like it just because it was spiced and cured into sausage? Who knows, but I’ll definitely give lamb another shot.
For dessert: I had the tartufo, which was a softball sized chocolate covered sphere of ice cream. The ice cream had a whole cherry and crumbled biscotti nestled in it, and it was served over a chocolatey-cherry sauce. It was one of those desserts that came out, I took one look and thought “wow, that’s pretty big, I’m sure I won’t be able to finish it”….and bit by bit, spoonful by spoonful, I polished off the whole thing. Lucky for me I have a handy extra dessert stomach.
B had house-made mint gelato, which as you can see below didn’t have a particularly graceful presentation, but was tasty nonetheless. Made with fresh mint, so it tasted cool and refreshing and pleasantly herbal.
All in all, it was a great dinner: welcoming atmosphere, seasonal, high-quality food with no pretense. I would go back here again, and again, and again. They serve lunch, too, and I can only imagine how dangerous it would be to me, my waistline, and my pocketbook if I worked within walking distance. 😉
Lupa Osteria Romana
170 Thompson Street