Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A late dinner.

After Louisa's most excellent reading at the Lady Jane Salon, she and I and our friend Arie decided to walk a block west and get some dinner at Lupa. Now, normally I don't get to eat Italian food with Louisa, since it's Nick's least favorite cuisine. But she was sans Nick on this trip, so I decided the time was right for an introduction to my beloved Roman pastas.

We started with the verdure misto, a platter of seasonal vegetables, each prepared in a unique way. The night we went, the platter featured assorted olives, broccoli rabe with ricotta, marinated squash, beets with pistachio sauce, treviso and brussels sprouts with pecorino. I enjoyed the sprouts, but thought they had a bit too much cheese going on - it was hard to find the spicy bite of the sprouts under all of that. The beets, though, were the star of the show. The pistachio sauce was insanely delicious, and the light nuttiness played beautifully with the sweetness of the beets.

Next, we each ordered a plate of pasta. I went for the bucatini all'amatriciana, a long, hollow pasta with tomatoes, red onion and guanciale (cured pork jowl, similar to bacon). I make this a lot at home, since it can be thrown together with ingredients I always keep on hand (I use fresh tomatoes in the summer, canned in the winter.) - and, I have to say, I like my version better. This one was good and bacony, but the red onion was a bit too sweet to act as a foil to the tomatoes, and there wasn't enough red pepper going on. The pasta was perfect, though.

Louisa's dish, on the other hand, was stellar. She ordered the bavette cacio e pepe, a classic Roman dish. Bavette is a thin, flat pasta - a bit like fettucine, but made without egg. The pasta is tossed with copious amounts of cheese (cacio) and pepper (pepe) until it's both creamy and mildly spicy. This version was perfect - silky, smooth, creamy, but with a bit of a bite.

We drank a bottle of Italian white and stumbled out into the chilly spring evening. Fortified by pasta and beets, though, it didn't seem so cold anymore.

170 Thompson Street (Between Houston & Bleecker)

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