Massimo Lusardi's newest spot, Pagani, took over a former record store space on Bleecker Street just off Seventh Avenue South this fall, and at face value, has a lot going for it.
Firstly, it has successfully retained the music haven's cool factor with a touch of elegance and an added dose of cozy. It's one of those spaces that just fully belongs in the West Village, with wooden tables topped with small votive candles, three small, half-sectioned off dining areas, a long wooden bar stocked with colorful liquor bottles and neutral tones for aesthetic warmth; it has names behind it hailing from beloved New York staples like Babbo and Uva.
The menu is also, upon first glance, delightful: With dishes like a farm poached egg atop oyster mushrooms, baby spinach and a dousing of crispy pancetta vinaigrette (yes, there are crispy bites of pancetta in there, and yes, they are like little bites of lardon heaven) and a decadent rigatoni with braised rabbit, carrots, peas, black olives and sweet onion, each at a surprisingly reasonable price of $10 and $23, respectively, it's easy to get excited about a meal here.
But alas, the anticipation is largely where the excitement ends. The cocktail and wine list is impressive - the Primosic pinot grigio by the glass is really quite good - but the meal itself lacks in creativity, and while the affordability of the bill will keep you smiling, the food is less than knock-your-socks-off fantastic.
The poached egg's pancetta bits are certainly tasty, but fall short of saving an otherwise bland dish with overcooked spinach; the grilled artichoke appetizer has flavorful bites of the well-prepared vegetable, but the plate is under-composed and, frankly, a little boring. Pastas are certainly a high point, but avoid the sides - the small plate of Brussels sprouts, for example, is uninspired, at best.
If you're a Village local, this Italian eatery is worth a visit: Pagani serves a purpose in its over saturated culinary 'hood as a comfortable, inviting and appropriately energetic go-to spot for a convenient third date (you know, when you want to start quietly easing away from more expensive, err, formal options) or an impromptu celebratory meal when your roommate gets that promotion. It just certainly won't be winning any awards anytime soon.