31 August 2008

A Disappointing Meal at Cipolla Rossa

Being owned by a genuine Tuscan gentleman with such accolades as catering for the Italian Ambassador to the UN more than 200 times, Cipolla Rossa should have been great - but instead it was another mediocre Italian only distinguished by a more interesting menu than most.

Situated on 1st Avenue between 92nd and 91st, the restaurant has transformed its tiny dining room with a bright and pretty copper ceiling. It has the added bonus of being a BYOB joint - at least for now. I had high expectations for the place because its menu was so specifically Tuscan, with a special emphasis on everything to do with wild boar (boar meatloaf, boar prosciutto, parpadelle with wild boar ragu, wild boar sausage...). It should have been a great night out.

Marcus and I ordered the grilled calamari, and two of their daily specials: double cut wild boar chop, and spaghetti with pancetta, wild boar sausage, and red onion (the restaurant's namesake - "cipolla rossa" is a red onion that grows especially around Tuscany). We felt this gave us a good spectrum of their different dishes. We brought along half a bottle of 2006 Santa Cristina sangiovese we hadn't finished last night with our pasta pomodoro.

The main problem with our meal was that everything was overcooked. The calamari was too charred from the grill and too tough, and the pasta was mushy! I can't forgive an Italian place for overcooked pasta. It's a cardinal sin and the ultimate sign of sloppiness in the kitchen. Marcus's boar chop was nice and rare as he ordered it, but the actually cut was not top quality - a little sinewy. Perplexingly, every dish we ordered was doused in a garnish of dried parsley, which I found detracted from both the flavor and the texture of each dish. Positively, the flavors in the were generally well done - the sauce on the pasta was excellent, and I ended up eating it around the spaghetti.

Cipolla Rossa has unfulfilled potential. The one waiter/host taking care of the small dining room kept on forgetting napkins, but was friendly. I think he and the restaurant are having a shaky start, but if they try a little harder and live up to higher standards in the kitchen, they could do quite well. However, I'm not willing to waste my money in the meantime when I can cook their menu better at home. I recommend Bianca or Falai instead for an authentically Italian meal in NYC.

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