By definition, a “Locanda” is an inn or guest-house, somewhere you can either eat or spend the night. The thing is, even though Andrew Carmellini’s sedate, sophisticated yet utterly sumptuous taverna Locanda Verde is located right inside Robert De Niro’s Greenwich Hotel, if push came to shove and I needed to bed down for a few hours after having gorged myself on “cicchetti” (small plates brimming with delectables), I would much rather do it right there on the marble counter, surrounded by some of the most dependably delicious house-made pastas and a bevy of full-bodied Barolo’s.
The L-shaped space at this Tribeca favorite is enormously welcoming with intermittent wine-racks partitioning the various dining areas. The only aspect that might be considered somewhat pretentious, are a certain species of diner who believe this to be a ripe sighting-ground for the likes of Hugh Jackman or Susan Sarandon. But trust me, the real stars are all on the menu. It’s all about Carmellini’s devotion to recreating an always-satisfying, urban Italian experience – regardless of whether you have only been here once, or one-hundred-and-once. His ingredient simplicity and restraint from over-fancying traditional dishes is what continues to make this a tough table to secure.
The Sheep’s milk Ricotta with sea-salt and herbs served with country toasts couldn’t possibly be a plainer dish. But once it arrives in a circle, surrounding a miniature birdbath of olive oil, you just want to dive in. When that sumptuous creaminess hits your tongue just after you bite down on the crusty bread, each of your taste buds races to be the first to define it. Is it (ever so slightly) sour? Maybe. Salty? Just a little. Creamy? Obviously!
The Insalata D’Andrea is another rather conventional-looking plate, but the sweetness of the apple and the tang of fennel and Asiago cheese would surprise anyone who would think this is just a salad. The Marinated Beets were a touch on the too-soft side for me, but the pistachios added some vital crunch.
Each of the house-made pastas are worth crossing Canal street for, but the all-time winner has to be the Pacherri with Sunday night Ragu. I’m never sure to which Sunday night they are referring: last week, last night, last fall? Who cares. All I know is – Sunday must have been a great night for cooking. The Dorade al forno is another standout. They fillet it and section it lovingly into convenient slithers amongst a buttery garden of tender artichokes and fennel with the slightest essence of sour lemon.
Keeping the citrus element alive, we moved on to the sublimely smooth wedge of Lime Tart with Buttermilk Gelato, when that all too familiar end-of-meal depression began to sink in – just like Sunday nights when I was still a schoolboy. Aaah.