Zagat editor James Mulcahy recently stopped by just-opened Italian restaurant L'Apicio in the East Village to check out some buzz-worthy meatballs and filed the following report.
Located on East First Street off the Bowery, the team behind beloved West Village gems L'Artsui and Dell'anima have opened their latest effort, L'Apicio.
While those places are very small and intimate, partner Joe Campanale aimed to find a space that could to accommodate much larger crowds.
"We were turning away people every night at the other restaurants. We want to seat everyone, so it's great to have extra capacity," he says. "The private dining room will also double as extra seating - and we put that in the middle of the room, which breaks it up nicely. You have all these nice little nooks and feel really cozy, even within a larger space."
The cavernous room features a large bar and lounge area. Along with cocktails, guests can enjoy a unique selection of herbal Amaro and digestifs from Italy.
"I absolutely love Amaro," Campanale says. "I've actually been surprised as to how many people have already been going after them - and not just industry people. We kind of can't keep our Amaro in stock. We ordered a bottle of each to start and we've already had to reorder, we're barely been open a week."
There is pasta and other Italian fare, but it's chef Gabe Thompson's pork meatballs that stand out as a main draw.
"The pork meatballs have got fennel seed, coriander seed, cumin seed, smoked paprika, chili flakes, pecorino cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley and salt. On a bed of polenta, with amatriciana sauce, which is a tomatoy and porky type of sauce," describes Thompson.
The dish has already gained accolades, and a trophy. It was the surprise winner at the recent New York City Wine and Food Festival's Meatball Madness event.
"We weren't going to serve the meatballs," Thompson says, "And my wife was really opposed to us serving the meatballs, because everyone's serving meatballs now and there's meatball and restaurants that specialize in it. So we thought, 'Let's not even do meatballs.' But then, we won the contest, and she looks at me, and she says, 'You gotta put the meatballs on the menu,.'"
For more information about L'Apicio and other new restaurants, visit blog.zagat.com.