wholefoodsrustica2.jpg

wholefoodsrustica.jpg

The holidays are upon us, which means that it's busy season, and you probably have little time to do the grocery shopping, let alone cook yourself a hot dinner. Gothamist opted for one solution at the Whole Foods Market on Bowery, the megalith of a grocery store that you either love for its fromagerie, Ciao Bella gelateria, and free wi-fi upstairs--or hate for being so enormous you find it impossible to find anything--which offers a reasonably priced and seasonable menu at their upstairs counter-top restaurant, Rustica Minardi Osteria.

Offering lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily (and brunch on weekends), Whole Foods chefs offer a selection of entrees, antipastis, and salads, mostly under $12. The dishes can either be eaten at the counter, or taken to sit anywhere in the Whole Foods sitting area, and are made to order at an open kitchen by Whole Foods' chefs.

Gothamist and our dining companion visited recently and shared the insalata di pera and gorgonzola, an arugula, farro, and red onion salad with gorgozola, toasted hazelnuts, and an overwhelming hazelnut vinaigrette. While flavors were fresh, the grilled pear accompanying the salad was underdone--too firm--and greens overdressed. We also shared the trio di bruschette, a great option for the indecisive order-er--three grilled toasts with a trio of spreads: fig with gorgonzola, butternut squash mascarpone with acacia honey, and wild mushroom spread with parmigiano-reggiano and truffle oil. Our party split favorites between the fig and butternut squash spreads; the fig intensely sweet but cut by pungent cheese; the squash rich and seasonal with subtler hints of sweetness. The bruschette proved to be the high point of our meal; the cavatelli autumnale, a whole what pasta tossed with butternut squash, swiss chard, roasted garlic, and mascarpone cheese was also a slight disappointment, arriving heavily under-seasoned.

In concept, we love the idea of Rustica Minardi Osteria. One can buy drinks or dessert downstairs and bring them to the counter, it's an easy way to eat a hot meal alone with a restaurant experience, chefs cook behind an open counter, and the dishes sound oh-so-enticing. However, in execution, we found ourselves disappointed with the intensity of the dishes' flavors, and though we have many more dishes to explore on the pasta-heavy menu, we'd also happily go downstairs and pick and choose our known favorites from the rest of the Whole Foods market. If anything, one can always mix and match--a salad from the restaurant, gelato from ciao bella, or a salad from the market and a plate of pumpkin ravioli from the restaurant--and inevitably walk away at least decently satisfied.

Rustica Minari Osteria is located on the second floor at the Whole Foods Market, Bowery, 95 East Houston Street. Open 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily.