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The Early Word on Bobby Werhane's New Italian Spot Spasso

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Krieger, 1/3/11

Spasso, from restaurateur Bobby Werhane (Johnny Utah's, Choptank), opened last week in the space formerly occupied by Alfama. Lupa and Convivio alum Craig Wallen crafted the rustic Italian menu of handmade pastas, in-house baked breads, cured meats, cheese, and dishes like ribolita soup, fritto misto, and grilled lamb chops. So far, folks have been weighing in with their thoughts, not just on how the food tastes but how the food smells here. To the early word:

Mostly Good News: A Tiger In The Kitchen visits during the first week and is astounded by the sheer number of people dining here. "... the bar and tables are jammed shoulder to shoulder with the hungry. The place is so overbooked with reservations that the only shot at a bite to eat is a more than hour-long wait for a seat at a woefully small counter in the back of the room...A 60-minute wait? As some might say: Meh." Things pick up with the food. "...The mussels al vino bianco are a Manhattan bargain at $10 -- our bowl was packed with far more of them than we could eat. They weren't anything unusual but were adequately satisfying." But it really kicks into high gear with the pasta. "It's the first thing that truly wows us -- ricotta strascinari comes packed with big chunks of braised duck leg and smoked scamorza (an Italian cow's milk cheese that's similar to mozzarella). This dish ($20), though a little on the salty side, is perfection -- the duck is packed with flavor and has been braised to impressive tenderness and you'll find yourself battling long threads of delicious melted cheese as you raise forkfuls to your mouth..." It appears as though there may be some shenanigans when it comes to the wine. "We've ordered a bottle of wine and the waiter has poured each of the four of us an average-sized glass of white. "Where's the bottle?" we ask -- to which he explains that he's just pouring and by the restaurant's estimate, a bottle works out to about four glasses... Isn't it more like six glasses to the bottle? We argue." [A Tiger In The Kitchen]

The Great News: John and Elena Talk About Food think that it comes close to living up to the hype. "The interior is sharp. A big marble bar greets you upon entry (the bartenders at Spasso make a nice drink - we had a few). Nice hardwood floors and crisp, soaring ceilings outline what is a busy and buzzing atmosphere... all of the food we have was very well made and artfully prepared. They start us off with some airy, well crusted bread and olive oil; can never go wrong here. Elana orders a Ribollita soup with pancetta, kale and ricotta. It's very light, with a sophisticated tang due to the meat. I order baked cannelloni with some shaved eggplant. It's served in a small, iron square dish which gives the perimeter of the meal a nice crust. Sauce is solid here as well, and the pasta is crisped but not too burned. Nice job. For a second dish, Elana orders Ricotta Gnocchi in a duck/tomato sauce. This is tops for the night. The gnocchi has great consistency, and there appears to be a salty, bacon presence throughout the dish. I scrape up the remnants of Elana's dish when she is not paying close attention. I had Pork shoulder which was cooked nice and slow: the pork fell apart and was tastefully fatty and salty... The service here was ok." [John and Elena Talk About Food]

The "Special Treatment" News: Yelper Hank J. had a good time but there were a lot of goodies thrown his way so that may have colored his judgment. "My biggest complaint about this place was smoke.. Apparently, the place has yet to work out the ventilation kinks.. Open kitchen and bad ventilation is not a good combination.. We ordered most of the menu and were comp'd all the desserts on the menu.. We thought we were too stuffed to continue but, when they placed 5 beautiful desserts on the table, we could not resist.. My favorite being a coconut pana cotta topped with pineapples.. This dish was wonderful. The pastas are large enough for two to share.. We ordered several and did not finish them.. My favorite being the little ricotta gnocchi with braised duck leg sauce.. The duck was phenomenal, the gnocchi of perfect texture and ridges to hold the sauce.. Wonderful dish. The coppa was a wonderful cure meat that was topped with pickled peppers. .Not to be missed." [Yelp]

The Shilltastic News: Yelper Diana R. checks in with her first review and - surprise, surprise - it's remarkably complimentary. "Spasso---A new GEM of a restaurant. If you are looking for great sophisticated place with amazing food this is it. The waiters are knowledgeable and very willing to help. Don't miss the House made Mozzarella cheese, serve in a wonderful milky fluid. The Grilled lamb chops were done to perfection. I order a side of the Polenta and was glad I did, this was the best Polenta I ever had. I'm wishing for some as I write this. I highly recommend you try this rustic Italian Gem of a restaurant. I will be going back soon. Think Valentine Day, just around the corner." [Yelp]

The Bad News: Yelper Matt M. clearly has a problem with ownership. "I almost walked out when I heard this was a Choptank owned property but stuck it out. WHAT A MISTAKE! The pasta ragu I had was fine but the service was just atrocious. Worst waiter ever." [Yelp]

The "Fantastic Italian Addition" News: Menupages commenter David S. could have just left the title of his comment "Fantastic Italian addition to W. Village" speak for itself but he elaborates. "Restaurant space is really neat-- there is fabulous bar area as well as a kitchen table. Had high expectations for food quality going in knowing that the chef is from Convivio and he did not disappoint. Prosciutto w/ crisp apples, rabbit w/parmigian and arugula, and the mussels were my favorite apps. The kale soup w/ pancetta and ricotta was also a standout. Of the pastas, all were good-- but my favorites were the braised duck leg pasta and the pork ragu pasta. Pork shoulder and grilled lamb chops were standouts in the entrees." [Menupages]
—Gary Wong

Spasso

551 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

Spasso

551 Hudson St., New York, NY

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