The husband and I went for one of those perfect New York meals. The kind that you can only get in this city. It isn't just about the food - it is that feeling that you are in an amazing place, and everyone else in the room feels it too. The energy isn't really quantifiable or tangible - it's just there. It has something to do with the lighting, the people you pass on the way in, the weather, the noise, but again I couldn't really describe what makes it great.
So I will stick with describing the food. The said meal took place at Bianca, an Italian restaurant specializing in delicacies from Emiglia-Romagna. (Blogger doesn't work well with macs so no link function - here is a link to menupages - http://www.menupages.com/restaurantdetails.asp?areaid=2&restaurantid=6230&neighborhoodid=0&cuisineid=35).
5 Bleecker St, New York, 10012
We had to wait for about 20 minutes for a table - time easily passed at the bar next door, Von. The host (owner?) George was pretty amazing. You don't usually see someone that attentive at these little places. We don't like waiting for tables as a rule, but George could probably have made us wait for more then an hour and we still would have been smiling when we were seated.
We started the meal with gnocco fritto, fried puffs of dough served with a cheese that appeared to be a type of mascarpone. The husband indulged me by ordering these - he isn't often up for fried foods - but they were pretty fantastic. The dough was light and the cheese was just tangy enough.
We also split a salad of shredded artichokes dressed in a lemon vinaigrette and topped with slivers of Parmigianno Reggiano. Any guilt from the previous appetizer was wiped clean with the fresh, clean, flavors of this salad. I've never had artichokes quite like this, they were crispy - even crunchy - and I loved the way the dish didn't taste quite finished unless eaten with the sharp parm.
On to entrees, I had the lasagna with a bechamel and meat sauce. Rich doesn't quite describe this dish. I am pretty sure the pasta was fresh, it was those super thin sheets that mush into one another when you cut it with a fork. No slippery lasagna sheets that spread apart when you try to eat it. The sauce was tomatoey and meaty and cheesy all at once. I ate the second half of it yesterday for lunch and it was almost as good as the first time around.
The husband had pasta with broccoli rabe, sausage, and olive oil. No bitterness in the broccoli rabe. The pasta was perfectly al dente and the sauce was light but packed with flavor. This was one of their specials that night.
Finally, for dessert we shared the tiramisu. I usually order a tiramisu at every new Italian restaurant I try - it is sort of a litmus test for me. There are so many Italian restaurants that are great, I feel like I need something by which to rate them. Well, Bianca gets high marks here. It was sort of a deconstructed tiramisu. There was a big layer of whipped topping, then a layer of what seemed to be espresso powder and chocolate chunks, and on the bottom - the coffee soaked ladyfingers. Not watery at all and the proportions of each ingredient were just right.
Add a bottle of red wine to the mix, a warm night, and that indescribable New York thing and it reminds me why I live here.