Tuesday, July 10, 2012


The guys of Little Wisco come from good gene stock.  Joseph Leonard (the names of the owner's grandfathers) is a favorite, I've heard only raves of Jeffrey's Grocery, and now Perla (the grandma) enters the scene.  (Fedora must be the hip cousin, perhaps stemming from  Joseph, Leonard, Jeffrey or Pearl wearing fedoras?).  At any rate, Pearl's picture (Perla's Pearl's Italian version) is among the many vintage black-and-white adorning the walls of the dining room.  She's hung just above the open kitchen, keeping a watchful eye over the wonderful things chef Michael Toscano is doing inside.

Like the rest of the Gabe Stulman's mini-empire, Perla is dark and loungey, with a distinct prohibition-era feel.  There are even some fedoras on the waitstaff, otherwise clad in their own button-downs and fitted jeans.  Perla is Italian, but not traditionally so, so you'll get a lot of seasonality and novel riffs, both keeping everything as fresh in concept as in execution.  Young field greens boasted plump, ebony blackberries and lots of crunchy pistachios, but a slight paucity of gorgonzola (although I thought it perfectly proportional and not overpowering the delicate lettuces, its orderer felt gipped).  An asparagus antipasto paired raw and roasted spears with quirky little mousseron mushrooms, pickly-sweet and somewhat reminiscent of rehydrated raisins.  Translucent petals of pecorino floated atop a smooth black pepper crema  that conducted all the flavors into a layered concerto of a salad.

  To a carnivorous end, more ambitious eaters might wager on the crispy pigs ear, and if it tastes as good as it looks, will pocket the ante.  The braised octopus featured tentacles akimbo atop fett'unta (an oily grilled crouton) smothered in a rich and tangy tomato and eggplant sugo: this with a side could be a wonderful small-but-hearty meal.
We had such good luck with the tagliatelle with crab at NoMad that we revisited Perla's version, this time with languid black squid ink noodles slithering with topaz kernels of sweet ripe corn and snowy chunks of peekytoe.  Okay, I liked NoMad's better, but this one was nothing to shake a stick at.  Spaghetti with rock shrimp, tomato and basil was just that and not much more.  It paled in comparison to the antipasti and the other pasta we tried, although in both cases the paste was cooked impeccably al dente.

On that note, the duck wasn't my favorite either- but what do I know?  I don't enjoy duck.  The saba glaze and apricot seemed too sweet, the savoy cabbage bitter, tough and wilty, and the duck meat I swear was still quacking in its rareness.  It looked like a huge pile of raw meat on the plate.  Piled, nonetheless, it was, so if you and your table like it as much as I didn't, you'll have ample tastes to share.  Anyways,  I'm gonna  plead ignorance and defer to Eater: http://ny.eater.com/archives/2012/05/best_new_duck_dishes_new_york.php#pointmap , who I'll trust  has a much better grasp of the situation than do I.

  I DO know I liked my skate, although I didn't detect much truffle flavor amongst the gently vinegared baby artichokes.  The fish was perfectly cooked,  a golden crisped lacy edge gilding its mild, ropey flesh as it nestled into buttery sauce.   Another fish option was the whole roasted branzino, happily de-boned and de-headed for you if you prefer, sided with poached asparagus spears and smothered in a luscious yogurt brown butter zabaglione to enrich the simply roasted fish.  There a handful of contorni, from which we chose the funghi misti, which were chubby, chewy morsels of a wonderful variety of mushrooms, of which oysters, trumpets, beech and chanterelle were definitely among the mix, and I loved each and every one of them.

Things ended on a high note with dessert, not only for their ample pots of rich and sumptuous Stumptown coffee, but a sorbetto trio of cantaloupe, peach and mango, scoops that were more delicious than even the peak-season fruits themselves normally are.  By far the most memorable dish of the evening, however, was a big bowl of juicy ripe blackberries plonked into a creamy, sweet-tart, airy lime pudding flecked with zest,  and cubes of moist, dense polenta cake.  I'm sure Perla will switch up her menu as quickly as the summer always seems to fleet by, but if I can make it back there before that dessert out-seasons itself, I'll be a happy summer-camper.  Although, I'm sure if I'm not back in time, Perla will have conjured up something JUST as wonderful in its stead.

24 Minetta Lane
New York, NY 10014

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