Those who know me well might imagine my agony in trying to select a restaurant appropriate for my boyfriend’s birthday dinner. For my birthday this year, the boy not only treated me to a delicious meal at one of our favorites, Mercer Kitchen, but also threw me a surprise party that I was actually surprised for (hard to do for a snoop like me) and treated me to several gorgeous gifts, so expectations were set high. I briefly entertained the idea of cooking a meal at home (
or pretending to by ordering catering and deliberately messing it up a little), but ultimately chose Scarpetta as the destination for wining and dining.
[Image c/o New York Magazine]
Scott Conant opened Scarpetta in New York’s meatpacking district three years ago, and has since then established outposts in Beverly Hills, Miami’s Fountainebleu, and quite randomly, Toronto (sorry, Canada). I made a reservation several weeks in advance on OpenTable–call me terribly uncool, but I detest restaurants that insists on not being on Open Table. Do you know how much easier it is for me to click a button on my iPhone than to actually speak to someone, quibble about when I’d like a table, and worst of all, have to spell my last name? Ugh. I won’t even talk about restaurants that don’t take reservations at all. Obviously, I will still wait at the bar sipping $20 cocktails for two hours to get a table, but I want you to know I don’t condone your behavior. At all.
I arrived several minutes early for our 8:30 reservation (the boyfriend had been calmly sipping a drink at the bar while I embarked on a frenzied journey throughout the meatpacking district attempting to find a gift bag. Note to all: nowhere in the meatpacking district sells gift bags. Or anything of any actual utility, for that matter), and we enjoyed martinis and complimentary hand-made potato chips with garlic aioli while waiting a reasonable 15 minutes for our table. We were led through the dimly-lit interior to our table, which to our amusement, was located next to a pair of quintessential little old New York ladies finishing up their dinner (you know the type–laden with fur and jewels, they had obviously had a reservation at 6, red meat with red wine, and were now enjoying their capuccinos and getting ready to pay, in cash). Although Conant’s decor had been criticized by some diners, I quite liked the renovated townhouse feel–the dining room was relatively small, with a transparent ceiling and small clusters of light. It felt airy but not at all large, and the music, which in the neighborhood is often too loud to hold a conversation over, was delightfully low.
[Townhouse interior, via New York Magazine]
After contemplating the tasting menu, we decided on a pretty simple meal–a bottle of wine, and an appetizer and entree each. We both knew that what you were supposed to order at Scarpetta was the spaghetti. A classic dish served with tomato and basil, Scarpetta’s spaghetti was featured on the Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate, but after some internal debate, I chose to go with one of the dishes I couldn’t actually make myself. As someone who dines out often, I justify the cost of my meals by ordering things I can’t personally cook. The list of things I can personally cook are very slim–spaghetti with marinara sauce and melted cheese, grilled chicken/shrimp, salad with balsamic vinaigrette, stir fried veggies, and things that come out of a box–so this is usually pretty easy to do. (Also, I don’t care how good it is, one cannot charge $24 for spaghetti with absolutely nothing on it). We held out for more interesting options.
Because it was his birthday, I agreed not to embarrass the boy by taking large quantities of photos of each of our courses, and turned my flash off and was allowed only one shot of each plate. I blame him for the blurry pictures below, and will gladly offer his email address and phone number to anyone wishing to complain to him directly. A disclaimer: the food was actually really pretty, and my apologies for not capturing that.
[Seared Sea Scallops with Sunchoke, Apple & Black Trumpet Mushrooms. I love scallops, and these were heftily sized and packed with flavor]
[Roasted Beets with Pumpkin Seeds, Sheep’s Milk Yogurt, and Watercress. This was actually brought out on the house, despite the waiter not effing anything up and having no idea it was the boy’s birthday, and was delicious]
[Duck & Foie Gras Ravioli with Marsala Reduction. I want to go back to Scarpetta just to photograph this dish for you properly. It was perfect. The ravioli literally melted in my mouth, and I gulped it down at a terrifying speed]
[Veal Loin with Gremolata Crust, Saffron Semolina & Bone Marrow. This was the boy’s dish, and he said it was good but not phenomenal. I had one bite and agreed]
Funnily enough, the item that we both liked the most didn’t have a chance to be photographed–probably because we ate it too quickly. The braised short ribs (served with vegetable and farro risotto) fell apart the second you bit into them. I am pretty sure they were sprinkled with heroin. I haven’t stopped thinking about them, and I need more.
We had a perfect celebration at Scarpetta–quiet, intimate, and thoroughly satisfactory to our taste buds. It’s a great place for a special occasion that isn’t overly trendy or hyped up. Dinner came with a serious price tag, so although I am not rushing back, I would gladly recommend Scarpetta for a date, or dinner with family.
[Happiest of birthdays to my favorite person in the world! I hope you had as great a time as I did]