Did I just eat Short Rib and Bone Marrow Agnolotti at the Village Idiot? Or, did I long ago drink $5 pitchers of Miller Lite while signing along to Waylon Jennings songs at Scarpetta? The answer to both questions is sort of, yes.
I started this column to tell the story of how I discovered some of my favorite New York City foods and what led me to try them for the first time. I learned about Scarpetta in the most uninteresting way possible. I saw it on the Food Network. Not that there is anything wrong with the Food Network. I've half watched enough Diners Drive Ins and Dives marathons to make my eyes bleed.
After watching Chef Scott Conant demonstrate for Ted Allen on “Best Thing I Ever Ate” how he makes his famous spaghetti I was sold. I knew Scarpetta was a restaurant that I would soon need to try.
As I waited for my girlfriend outside the building at 355 W 14th it became readily apparent to me that Scarpetta occupies that same space that once housed a great dive bar called the Village Idiot. In late 1990s and early 2000s I witnessed/participated in countless drunken fights and sloppy hookups at the rowdy tavern where patrons drank straight from their own pitcher. Who needs a glass when the whole pitcher is only 5 bucks?
At the Village Idiot broke college kids, grizzled bikers, and Wall Street bankers all drank the same piss and played the same Johnny Cash songs from the jukebox. Completely pretense free dives like the Idiot are a dying breed in New York City. One is not going stay on business on a prime corner of the Meat Packing district in 2015 when your main product is under-priced domestic beer.
Once inside I was able to ignore the ghosts of past savagery long enough to enjoy a terrific meal. The basket of bread included two slices of excellent stromboli, one with meat, one vegetarian. The olive oil and marzipan whipped butter that were provided for dipping both were delicious.
We ordered two pasta dishes to share, the above mentioned agnolotti and spaghetti that is Ted Allen's favorite. I don't believe I'd ever previously had a pasta that was stuffed with beef short rib and bone marrow. The delicate house made noodle, similar to a mini ravioli, was dressed with garlic chips and horseradish. It was a really inventive and tasty plate.
The much hyped spaghetti did not disappoint. It seemed as if it was the chef's intent to take a simple and classic dish and elevate it through the use of great ingredients cooked perfectly.
We finished the meal with a fabulous dessert called Limoncello Semifreddo. The pistachio cake, macerated berries, and blackberry basil sorbet all worked together in sweet harmony. Overall it was a great meal and night in lower Manhattan. Though I truly miss my wild nights at the Village Idiot, I'm glad that Chef Scott Conant is doing noble work in the space.
Chris Sandstrom - Is a graduate of Columbia University and the author of the debut novel, "Reality TV and Hookers" a satire on the reality TV industry. You can keep up with Chris on Twitter at @ChrisSandstrom8.
Finding Food in NYC Is a series highlighting how Chris discovered some of his favorite food spots in New York City.