Friday, December 10, 2010


Last week, I stumbled into a nearly empty Sorella, a pity on a Thursday night. Only a block away, Mary Queen of Scots, the LES newcomer who denied us a table, was filled to the gills with hipsters and mock foodies, leaving poor Sorella to fend for herself. Why would anyone pass up the dense, generous beef carne cruda, or the slick pici with its economical pool of creamy sauce? What misinformed eater would have chosen an overdone burger over the flash-fried and bacony Brussels sprouts, or the potatoes with speck that arrived crusty and lacquered with mayonnaise in the style of fine patas bravas?

I couldn't say. I felt sad for the lonely, crispy, salty, herbaceous breadsticks, which assuaged my hunger before our food arrived. My sweetbreads were a touch overcooked, but their crust--it must be cornmeal--lingered. Even our desserts, scoops of gelato laced with chocolate and caramel and banana and a host of other secrets belied a restaurant that should be remembered and isn't. The food is delicate and modest in its portions. There are no disappointments, aside from the spare following. I hope they keep their doors open through another long winter.

On to other sprouts. In Astoria, on another cold night, I found myself at Vesta, a wine bar with Italian inclinations that opened a year or so ago. Upon first glance, one might think their pizzas a hair too large, but the crust is cracker-thin and so the slices go down easy. I could have used more blue cheese and less sauce on my pie of blue and caramelized onions, but never mind. The fusilli, while too large a portion for sure, came with crisped sweet Italian sausage and a sauce that boasted an old Italian secret: starchy cooking water from the pasta pot. It was a stick-to-your-ribs bowl perfectly suited to the weather. The grass-fed rib-eye is a steal at $25. I would have liked to have sliced it myself, but never mind. It came rare, as ordered, and well seasoned, which says something about the diligence of the kitchen.

For dessert, I allowed the server to talk me into Baby Jesus Cake, which is really just a toffee steamed pudding adorned with fresh whipped cream. My server was right; I was glad I had listened.

95 Allen Street
New York, NY 11201

Vesta Trattoria & Wine Bar
21-02 30th Avenue
Astoria, NY 11102

No comments: