2005_04_barolo_terrace.jpgGothamist knows how we like our restaurant gardens - full of beautiful people, flowering trees and free-flowing drinks. We were pleased as punch on Thursday when we attended the 15th annual garden opening party Una Sera Sotto Le Stelle (An Evening Under The Stars) at Barolo and found everything we adore. The crowd was eclectic: Italian ex-pats and neighborhood holdovers from when Soho wasn’t a mall mingling with young models and magazine types, and we enjoyed the spectacular space, the back of the lot Barolo is situated on, opening onto Grand Street. We missed many of the hors d’oeuvres but heard the lovely Veinmelter play an acoustic set above the crowd, piquant like any arrangement of space in the city.

Because we missed the hors d’oeuvres at the party, we were lucky to snag a table when, like any night of the 365 per year Barolo is open tables are hard to come by. Immediately we were offered wine, we chose a Barbera ($8), a delicious red, full-bodied and not at all sweet or fruity, a wine for hearty meals and long conversations. Our friend, who prefers mixed drinks, chose a Moscato ($9), a wine sparkling dessert wine, so sweet that when we tried it, it felt like our tongue was immediately candied. Moscato, the busboys agreed, is one of the first wines Italians kids start with and have fond memories of, like how we learned how to drink vodka at an impressionable age. We both had appetizers, broiled calamari ($14) unlike we’ve ever had (and, as bar food, we’ve had a lot of calamari) and for our friend, the antipasto ($13), an amazing assortment of proscuittos and cheeses, including the best buffalo mozzarella we’ve ever had- it fell apart in our mouths and made us never want to eat another cheese.

As an entrée, our friend had the chocolate fettuccine with mushrooms and we had the ravioli with lamb sauce. The sauce was very meaty and almost overwhelmed the ravioli but the fresh pasta was still amazing. Our friend’s meal was far too much for her to finish, the pasta just chocolate enough and the mushrooms succulent. Though full, we ordered desert, tiramisu and crème brulee (both $9) that were enough to make anyone reconsider, both the exact right size and beautifully decadent. The crème brulee was topped with blackberries, a surprisingly perfect choice and the tiramisu tasted so fresh, the ladyfingers still airy and the cinnamon just grated.

2005_04_food_barolo_outside.jpgMaurizio Marfoglia, a wonderful chef but a terrible waiter when he tried to bring out our dishes, talked to us about the meal and his time at Barolo. The chef from Milan came to Barolo four years ago after a tenure at Tuscan Square and other restaurants in the Coco Pazzo group and reintroduced a lot of Italian dishes. The fettuccine, for example, is not new at all, just forgotten, he said and taught the staff. He also took pride in reestablishing a lot of what we knew of the restaurant before that night, the fact that it is a power lunch spot with impeccable service, not unlike a downtown Four Seasons restaurant. Even with its proximity to the downtown Cipriani’s which is always full and always on Page Six, Barolo has firmly established it’s identity as a Soho institution.

Barolo is beautiful inside, out and for people watching. If it sounds too rich for your blood, its still the perfect recommendation to show your family you know the classy joints.

Barolo, 398 West Broadway, near Broome, (212) 226-1102

Photos courtesy of Maya Corneille.