17 April 2008

Gradisca, 126 West 13th Street (between 6th and 7th Ave)

Wow, can you believe it's been almost a month since our last tragedy at Bone Lick in Chelsea. I was anxiously (but also patiently) awaiting George's week-long update from when he and T were in town. I received it today, but frankly...it's not up to the Fork qualifications. We're going to have to work with the amateurs over here to spice it up and give it the true flavor, the ZEST of what the Flying Fork embodies.

While you all bite your nails in anticipation of this monster, mother-of-all posts, I give you Gradisca - just barely enough to whet your appetite.

Gradisca has been one of the restaurants in my card deck of restaurants that keeps coming up as a place I want to try, but every time gets denied - either for the location, menu, cuisine, etc. (Dad and I denied it in favor of Cafe Loup, which is right across the street from Gradisca.)

So, it came up last night as I presented the options for restaurants that I picked to David as he basically kicked my ass in chess while not even thinking. After a short, brutal game, Gradisca wasn't too long of a walk, I was getting cold as the sun was setting, and it was Italian, which is a great cuisine if you have no idea what you want, or aren't that hungry.

We pondered the menu outside for a minute or two, and decided to check it out, despite being relatively expensive. Upon walking in, my mind, heart and soul were immediately warmed by the three candles on each table, diners leaning in casually and closely over bottles of wine and delicious looking pastas, and our host and waiter being extremely Italian (calling me bella several times throughout the meal). So classy.

We sat down and I felt a little under dressed (jeans and a polo), but it didn't matter as we were treated with amazing service from our waiter. We decided on the pappardelle con ragu di agnello tagliato al coltello (fresh egg pappardelle sautĂ©ed with hand-ground lamb ragu), and maltagliati di pasta fresca in crema di tartufo nero (handmade “badly cut” egg pasta in a black truffle cream sauce).

The bread came and was mediocre at best - nothing special or out of the ordinary. Our pastas arrived soon thereafter and I could probably count the number of noodles in my bowl at about twelve - it was that small. $20 for this!? Are you crazy?! I saw Dave immediately dive into his truffle sauce pasta, and the next time I looked up, he was about 2/3 of the way done. (Interesting because he wasn't hungry when we walked in...)

After allowing the smell to slowly permeate my nostrils for a minute or two, I tried mine. The lamb was so tender, so tasty, and the sauce - oh my god. A perfect blend of herbs and spices - this isn't your classic Ragu or Newman's here. It perfectly complemented the homemade pasta, which is a flavor, consistency and texture I feel only existed on that night, at that moment. Maybe they hand-made it in the kitchen. Maybe when we ordered, they had a bullet train that came over from Italy to deliver our food in a special temperature controlled car. Please allow me to say, I have not tasted Italian that good since Mom and I were in Italy two years ago.

And David's truffle pasta? Well, let's start by saying that when they said truffle cream sauce, they didn't mean "cream sauce with some flecks of truffle", nay, they meant truffles pureed INTO a cream sauce. There was absolutely no skimping on the sauce of any kind. I don't even LIKE mushrooms but I definitely just inhaled the pasta and sauce on my fork for a good two minutes before I took my first bite. And the bite held up perfectly to every single expectation I had.

I forced myself to eat slowly, almost a bite a minute to really savor, and enjoy these flavors I know I will probably never taste again.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, we ordered a chocolate soufflé that disappeared within the minute it was put down. So rich, with the perfect hint of dark chocolaty bitterness complimenting the vanilla cream that flooded the edges of the bowl.

Maybe I died last night. Maybe Gradisca was heaven. Maybe I fell from heaven this morning. Do I really care? Nope, it was all worth it.

Gradisca gets 4/5 forks, only because the portion sizes were just so damn small.

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