Most Italian restaurants typically offer only a handful of vegetarian choices - pasta with marinara sauce, minestrone soup, etc. - although these are of course delicious, they can leave the vegetarian wanting more.
Quartino specializes in regional Italian cuisine. Their small-plate dishes are meant to be shared and come out to your table as soon as they're ready - ensuring they are fresh or hot from the oven. As soon as you sit down, you'll have endless fresh-baked rustic Italian bread brought to your table, which you can season with with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Their wine-list is dizzying, and they also offer beer and cocktails. Try the Chianti classico riserva for an authentic oenological experience.
Many of their cicchettti (wine bar plates) are vegetarian friendly, including chilled zucchini grilled with sun-dried tomato, white bean and garlic spread, and polenta fries served with red bell pepper salsa. Also order assorted olives, roasted peppers with capers and garlic, pickled vegetables, roasted beet salad, or baby artichokes as a first course. Quartino also serves a variety of cheese plates, including gorgonzola dolce accompanied by apricot-rosemary puree and walnut-raisin bread.
Their Neopolitan pizze, made with Italian flour, San Marzano tomatoes, Parmesan and house-made mozzarella, can be made-to-order (without meat or cheese if you prefer), but many are vegetarian without any customizing. Their Rucolina pizza is piled high with wild arugula, and the Vegetarina extends beyond arugula and includes asparagus, cauliflower, zucchini, and eggplant as well. If you're in the mood for something simple, try the Margherita pizza (mozzarella, tomato sauce and sweet basil), or if you want something adventurous, order the Rustica pizza (potato, onion, rosemary and grana - hold the pancetta!).
Zuppe e insalate (soup and salad) courses naturally offer a wide-range of options for the herbivore, including sun-dried tomato soup with basil and ricotta crostini, minestrone soup made with seasonal vegetables. All of their salads are vegetarian, such as a simple baby spinach salad with pears, walnuts and ricotta, or a caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella, roma tomatoes, fresh basil and aged balsamic syrup.
Many of their pasta dishes are house-made (Pasta in Casa) and include several vegetarian choices - the gnocci, or potato dumplings, are served with green beans, potatoes and arugula pesto. Their Pasta Secca, or imported pasta, includes penne alla vodka (vodka, tomatoes, garlic, red chili, basil and cream). A creamy vegetarian asparagus risotto gives comfort food a new meaning.
A special vegetarian section features eggplant parmigiana, spicy broccoli rabe, sauteed spinach, braised escarole with cannellini beans, roasted yukon gold potatoes and potato puree. As you'd expect, meat dishes populate the menu, but a vegetarian can find so much to choose from that the meat does not overpower or intimidate. There is something for everyone!
Be sure to save room for one of their incredible desserts - it would be sacrilege to leave Quartino without at least trying their biscotti, gelati or sorbetti. The Italian doughnuts, fluffy fried dough covered in powdered sugar, served with hot chocolate sauce and honey, are to die for.
Atmospheric, with vintage, rustic decor, Quartino exemplifies old world meeting the new. A wooden bar, a large dining room and upstairs dining area, as well as an outdoor patio for dining in warmer weather all have a fantastic lively, frenetic energy. Quartino is perfect for a romantic date or special occasion as well as for a dinner with family or a large group of friends. The wait staff and hosts are outstanding - they are beyond attentive and courteous, treating patrons like old friends.
The main dining room is dimly lit, with Italian movies streaming on several large-screen TVs. On my visit they were playing Boccaccio '70, a 1962 film with four "episodes" directed by four different Italian directors.
Quartino opens daily at 11:30 am for lunch, and remains open between 1 and 3 am depending on the day.