When it comes to restaurants, New York City is certainly the place to be when you are looking for something to eat, but you do not know what you want. The city offers you choices upon choices that there is surely something that will please your longing palette. There is nothing you cannot find in this city of fabulous food.
When it comes to ethnic food choices, there you have your French, Spanish, Mexican Polish, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, and dozens more. Of course, there are your quintessential Chinese and Italian restaurants that are categorized into their native regions. Each with their own special and unique recipes, but also serving up a side of the traditional classics.
Tonight seemed to be an Italian night. Where to go? I recalled hearing about a great little place on 13th Street in the heart of the West Village called Sotto 13. This is a special little eatery specializing in an intriguing twist on Italian cuisine—it is a tapas bar that offers specialty pizzas, unique desserts and a full bar to engage you in the libation of your choice, including a great array of Italian wines.
From the moment I was seated by Giuseppe Montalto, the manager of this establishment who is a true Sicilian who transplanted himself to the Big Apple some years ago, there was a parade of non-stop food that passed before me. The panella di ceci or chickpea fries are out of this world. Honestly, they reviled my own.
For me, the hallmark between a good Italian restaurant and a great one is their fried calamari. Well, Sotto 13’s version makes them a great restaurant. The calamari was truly crispy and dry to where the accompanying basil aioli clung steadfastly on those golden rings of deliciousness.
Their pasta dishes are truly unique creations. The fresh cut rigatoni and spicy lamb sausage with kale and grilled octopus with a sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs was outrageous delicious, as was their duck carbonara and garlic & rosemary marinated skirt steak.
Without a doubt, pizza is the food of the gods. Who does not like pizza? There are so many variations on the theme that each pizza from wherever it is made needs to stand on its own merit. Here too, Sotto 13 again shines. Their thin crust wood-fired assortment of pizzas are each a taste treat on a slice of heaven. There are 10 different pizzas to choose from. Being a pizza purist, the classic Margherita was my favorite, but then they brought out their capicola with bacon-red onion marmalade, ricotta, mozzarella and shaved red onion and I was in heaven again.
Did I mention their butternut squash cannelloni and their meatballs? They are outrageous good. The meatballs were soft and tasty just like a good Italian meatball should be.
Last, but not least was their spin on desserts. They offer “dessert pizzettas.” These are flat bread pizza-styled desserts. There are four of them and I asked to try all four, and I am glad that I did. The smores with chocolate hazelnut spread and caramelized marshmallows along with graham cracker crumbles was my favorite until I tried the marinated apple and amaretto soaked sliced apples with cinnamon gelato, then that became my favorite. The tiramisu with mascarpone cream in an espresso reduction and lots of shaved semi-sweet chocolate and biscotti crumbles then took top honors. Last was the gorgonzola dolce. Yes, a gorgonzola cheese dessert. Made with sweet gorgonzola cream and red wine poached pears and then drizzled with a balsamic reduction became the sure first place winner.
I needed to be rolled out of Sotto 13. Needless to say, all those extra calories were well worth it. There is always the treadmill tomorrow.
So, if you find yourself in downtown Manhattan and making your way to the West Village or feel like going downtown to the West Village for some great and unique spin on Italian food, think about taking a seat at Sotto 13 located between 5th and 6th Avenues. Sotto 13 has found a way to infuse tradition with a dusting of cutting-edge cuisine that is both affordable and mouth-watering. Add to that a gracious staff and manager Giuseppe who is easily one of the most enjoyable people in the restaurant business. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.