From a restaurateur’s point of view, starting an Italian family-recipe business in this over-catered-to city filled with labels, names and fussy eaters is like trying to be a one-armed trapeze artiste in total darkness. Unless of course you happen to create a unique experience that sets you apart from all the others – like Sauce.
Frank Prisinzano’s Lower East Side neighborhood trattoria (with in-house slaughtery) boasts a number of idealistic principles which while not exclusive (farm-to-table, snout-to-tail, start-to-finish) they all contribute to delivering unpretentious and always satisfying favorite dishes with a just-like-Grandma-made-it authenticity.
Even before an Aperol Spritz, the oddly organized menu can be a bit of a challenge, but if you settle on any of the crowd-pleasers, you won’t be disappointed. The breaded and fried chicken Alla Milanese, the Steak Tagliata for two, the grass-fed Meatballs in tomato gravy are all perfectly, perfectly fine, but the prime spotlight is stolen by a game-changer simply known as “The Plank”!
The ceremonial ritual starts like the parting of the Red Sea. A 10-inch wide boulevard of crockery, cutlery and stemware is cleared from the center of the table. Next, a pale wooden shingle is lowered to occupy the space. From the first of several dispensers, a ladleful of soft polenta is shmeared over the plank, quickly followed by a thick, red squiggle of grass-fed bolognaise. And just as the sauce starts to sink into the white cloud, it gets a generous dusting of freshly ground Parmesan. And to complete the Tricolore, some very green Ligurian olive oil is drizzled from end to end.
By the time you have sectioned off a scoopful of this medley onto your plate, it doesn’t look like much. But as my partner so prophetically pointed out – it wasn’t going to remain on my plate for very long! Only after the fourth helping did it finally dawn on me that the polenta was merely the delivery mechanism (like a fluffy cheese-infested conveyor belt) that kept the rich, hearty and spectacularly authentic Bolognaise coming.