Last week, a very-pregnant Nikki Cascone opened her "Global-Jewish" eatery, Octavia's Porch, to the public. The name (which some have found controversial) comes from a gateway in Rome's Jewish ghetto, and Cascone herself is half-Jewish/half-Italian. Will the concept stick? The Top Chef-watching foodie masses didn't exactly flock to her last venture, the defunct 24 Prince, but the price might just be right for the neighborhood. To the early word:
The "You Win Some, You Lose Some" News: New York Journal's Marc Shepard freaks out over the complimentary bread, but wavers on the actual dishes. "The warm, house-made bread could be Robert Atkins’ public enemy #1. Serving such a gorgeous specimen to a solo diner is almost criminal. Most three-star restaurants don’t serve bread this good.
The only explanation I got out of the server was, “She just uses a very high quality flour.”...The Kreplach here ($8; below left) are an error of both conception and execution. Made with beef and veal, they quickly fell apart, with the meat filling not adhering to the dough. Worse yet, the traditional chicken soup was replaced with an inauthentic dipping sauce of soy and scallions. These were not the Kreplach of my youth, nor were they an improvement." [NY Journal]
The "There's A Shill In The Air" News: Menupages user anonymoose posts this long-winded rave, "Octavia's Porch is a great addition to the neighborhood. The food was an incredible amalgamation of the Jewish comfort food of my family, Mediterranean cuisine and solid American. We went on opening night and it was great. The restaurant seemed to have a nice steady flow of people through the course of the evening and the tunes overhead were pretty good - not quite East Village but still good! My girlfriend and I shared kreplach which were perfect - delicious meat on the rarer side in a perfectly lightly fried kreplach exterior and the quinoa salad which was crunchy and slightly sweet...The kitchen was probably working out a few first night kinks and in apology for a slightly long wait for our entrees - the house was gracious enough to comp us with a doggie bag of desserts - pb&j donuts and black and white cookies. All in all - I will definitely be back - everything on the menu looks worth trying. Cheers to Nikki for developing a modern restaurant that plays off of these influences and for doing it in the neighborhood that introduced these Old World flavors to this city and this side of the world. I think it is a delicious addition to the neighborhood and I recommend it as a neighborhood go-to and as a destination for all you non-Villagers!" [MenuPages]
The Mostly Okay But Not Great News: This is the one Yelp review so far: "....at first glance, this blending isn't present. With Pasta-Making-Nikki of Top Chef fame at the helm, we anticipated a true merger of Jewish and Italian food. (Ignoring the old joke, of course, that the only difference between Jews and Italians is the accent). The menu was heavy on Jew and missing Italian entirely. One measely pasta dish, an apparent throw-away, was the only thing that suggested we were dining at Octavia's Porch in Rome, and not the Wailing Wall. That being said, I'm all for some Jewy goodness, so bring on the food....We split the appetizer of three shmeers: olive tapenade (we were told it had fennel. If it did, I couldn't taste it); salmon-cucumber-dill; and white bean-lemon-chive. They were fantastic...The Porch suffers from soggy-skin syndrome in at least two dishes that demand nothing but crispy, blistery goodness. The duck, flavored exceptionally, covered in liquid fat, fell a bit short when there was no crunch. The same goes for the hunka-hunka chicken. [Yelp]
The Good News: The Columbia Spectator offers a breezy, almost all positive review: "It’s difficult not to fill up on the complimentary starter loaf of freshly baked challah bread, but make sure to save plenty of room for the rest to come. The wild mushroom knish appetizer is not so typical, with its piquant mushroom flavor combined with fresh potatoes, soft bread, and a sweet yet tangy mustard sauce. The red quinoa salad, served with green beans, pumpkin seeds, and citrus is a delectable recommendation with its rich, balsamic vinaigrette flavoring and beautiful presentation.
Next up is the main course—a brisket sandwich on rye bread with pickled red onions and cabbage, or roasted chicken with challah and date stuffing. The brisket is well-cooked and tasty but would be better served warm...As for the chicken, fennel and pepper flavoring add a non-traditional kick to the tender, moist meat...This Jewish outpost delivers high quality ingredients at reasonable prices..." [Columbia Spectator]
The Amazing News: Fellow Top Cheftestant (and famous spy) Angelo Sosa keeps things short and sweet, "At Octavia's Porch--amazing, amazing, amazing..." [Twitter]