Saturday, November 5, 2016


San Carlo Osteria Piemonte is a big name for this tiny little West Village Italian gem.  I found my way here by good word from the trusted then-manager of Da Marcella nearby, and they suggestion was worthy.  The room is subtly lit, emphasizing its cozy, nook-like feel, and the congenial, welcoming staff compound this.  You are welcomed into their space, in Italian, and throughout the night the Italianness of the establishment just becomes more and more impactful.  The San Carlo team helms from the
 Piedmont region of Italy, and the menu is an inspired combination of traditional Northern Italian with a bit of modern whimsy.

They started us of with a lovely little bowl of chewy farro and diced market vegetables, fragrant with basil.  It's a dish that is also available on the menu as a primo, but it was offered as complimentary little nosh, in keeping with typical Italian generosity.  There are more little bites, labeled sfizi, such as a plush, ricotta filled squash blossom fried to a crisp, or crusty anchovy toasts whisked with herb butter.

Antipasti included a seasonal salad or one of grilled octopus, and a variety of crudi, some of which are nearly ample enough to either share or serve as entrees (or secondi, as the case may be), if you add a contorno, which is where I found my choice of appetizer.  While I was hesitant to get generic verdure grigliati for fear of just those generic verdure grigliati, these were anything but.  Robust, super-primo veggies- yes, the usual suspects, but seasoned to amplify their natural flavors to the ultimate degree, cooked just short of too much, toothsome yet tenderized.  Each veg was Noah's ark-style, two of each, so both of us at my two-top got a nice big sample of each specimen. Capesante con pure di rafano featured six fat little mollusks, buttery and sweet against a zippy puree of spunky horseradish smeared around the
 periphery.  A light eater could make a meal of these, and bigger appetites that go for the real secondi still might be challenged by their abundance.  

The primi, on the other hand, are classic first course portions, but regardless of how you fit theme into your meal, they are not to be missed.  Tajarin Superga live up to their braggadoccio, a dense spool of angel hair spun with brown butter infused with black truffles and safe, a decadent explosion of autumnal flavor.  On the lighter side is a fusilloni with shrimp and a lemony arugula pesto, or go heartier with the housemade agnolotti in a rich, meaty ragu.  The tajarin, however, pairs swimmingly with a contorno of sauteed wild mushrooms, salty with a truffled woodsiness.    Choosing a main course from the Secondi gets pricier... some of the items from this section approach the forty dollar mark.  But rest
 assured you'll get both quantity and quality for the price.    Unlike a classic secondo, bare on the plate, entrees here come with ample garnish: a vegetable and starch in every case.  Bone-in veal is pounded thin and breaded in the Milanese, joined by a zesty arugula salad and roasted potatoes, while a behemoth pan-seared split full chicken breast (free-range) shares a crowded platter with both fava and cannellini beans, and a thick tomato-pepper sauce called bagnet rosso, a classic Piedmont-style ragout.

Dinner might fill you up too much for dessert, which would be too bad, considering the options.  Pears poached in red wine and spices, or a minty semifreddo with spicy chocolate sauce await, or take the opportunity to try the Bönet, a traditional Piedmont pudding like a fudgy flan dusted with crumbled amaretti.  If you forgot to save room, however, finish your meal with an outstanding limoncello, tart and icy-fresh.  Reality always sets in inevitably, but for the moment you'll really believe in la bella vita, thanks to San Carlo.

Tel: 212.625.1212 / 212.625.1232


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