Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Restaurant Review: Manhattan's Lupa Osteria

Lupa Osteria has long been one of my favorite Italian restaurant's in New York. Long considered Babbo's less expensive little sister, Lupa shines all by itself. A meal at Lupa never really breaks the bank, but is always an enjoyable food indulgence.

Why did I choose to review Lupa, since it is hardly new to the restaurant scene? It is because I think Lupa presents Italian food in a lively ambiance better than almost anyone else in New York, and I wanted to share of my favorite dining experiences in the city.

If you live in Manhattan and have not been to Lupa, now is the time to make your reservation. You will have to reserve a table at least several weeks in advance, such as on OpenTable, or be prepared for a late night weekday dinner, which is a fun way to enjoy the lively and upbeat atmosphere and delicious cuisine of Lupa. Some of my best memories at Lupa were spontaneous 11 PM meals here with friends when we were out for drinks in the neighborhood. It's worthy to mention that the legendary Mario Batali is also a part-owner of this establishment.

I have dined at Lupa too many times to count. In the beginning, I started coming here around 2001 when I lived in the West Village. It was so good that I kept coming back. When I met Brad in 2004, we started coming here together because it turned out that Lupa had long been one of his favorite restaurants.

My most recent visit to Lupa was a few weeks ago over the holidays with my husband, his sister and her husband. We had a great time at a late night after work dinner, with lively conversation over good food and wine.

My favorite dish on the menu is bucatini all' amatriciana, a pasta dish prepared with the tubular bucatini pasta and the amatriciana. I have actually made this dish at home using my own recipe (click here) but nothing, and I mean nothing compares to the perfection of the crispy guanciale and sauce mastery of Lupa's house "buci." If I had to name the single best pasta dish in any New York City restaurant, this would be it. It's as close to perfection as pasta can be.

The way to order at Lupa is to start with some of their delicious verdure, meats and other small plate appetizers. The menu has a handy Italian index that defines less common ingredients and dishes for you, in case you aren't sure what to order.

During our recent dining experience, we shared several of the verdure, the beets with pistachio and the squash alla romana, both of which we enjoyed. We also ordered a couple salads - my husband and I shared the newest salad on the menu, a salad with apples and Lupa's delicious guanciale, while his sister ordered the escarole, walnut and red onion salad - a Lupa classic. Both were big hits with our table.

For our main courses, my husband and I could not resist ordering the bucatini, because it is simply too good to pass up. In the past, however, I have tried various gnoccis on the menu at Lupa, and this is always a good choice as well - I have enjoyed a goat cheese gnocchi in the past at Lupa, as well as their ricotta gnocchi with sausage and fennel. Some other favorites on the menu are a few of Lupa's daily specials - crispy duck agrodolce on Tuesdays and lamb short ribs on Saturdays, both of which are artfully prepared and mouth watering.

The desserts at Lupa are also enjoyable - we had the black pepper panna cotta and the tartufo, ice cream in a chocolate shell. It was a memorable and enjoyable evening, like every dining experience at Lupa - enjoyed with several glasses of wine, both red and white, from Lupa's extensive Italian wine list.

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