Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to St. Mark's for pizza, pasta, and some BYOB action.
Even though it opened less than two weeks ago, Tramonti feels instantly familiar if you've ever eaten at any of the hundreds of small, low-key, neighborhood Italian spots throughout the city. Marble tables, brick walls, old photos of the homeland, a wood-fired pizza oven in the back: check, check, check, and check.
In fact, the last restaurant in this space, Via Della Pace, had a similar vibe, and though new owners Diego Matute and chef Giovanni Vittorio Tagliafierro have changed much of the interior—though the table-top soccer game still hangs from the rafters—you would be forgiven if you didn't immediately realize you were eating somewhere new.
Tramonti is narrow but comfortable, with a decent amount of space between tables along one wall (not enough space between tables is a longtime issue with NYC dining!). There are somewhere around 25 seats, including three stools by the front window overlooking the bustle of St. Marks Place. The music is nondescript Italian classics, the staff friendly and professional, the pace unhurried. Located by Tompkins Square Park, Tramonti is a welcome, decidedly un-sceney respite from the often-frantic restaurants in this part of the East Village.
The Tramonti menu is long, with lots of basic salads, antipasti plates, and bruschetta, but I stuck with pastas and pizzas over two meals here last week. The soul of the restaurant is its namesake town in the Campania region of southwest Italy, where chef Tagliafierro grew up; at the restaurant, his aim has been to reproduce some of its "ancient recipes."
Two of the seven pastas on offer are identified as classic Tramonti dishes, and both were very good. The Past' e Patane featured a pile of fat spaghetti that's been boiled in a pot of potatoes, then sautéed with garlic and olive oil. It's wonderfully starchy without being at all gummy, and featuring just the right amount of salt. It's almost like eating a thick soup, without the liquid. And the other old-world pasta, Paccheri alla Mandara, might be even better, with its hefty rolls of al dente noodles, thick slices of hot soppressata, and chunks of soft mozzarella cheese, all judiciously sauced in a sweet tomato concoction.
In the pizza section there are seven so-called "untouchables," classic combinations that honor the old Tramonti pizza-making traditions, but all of the pies here are made with San Marzano tomatoes and Fior de Latte cheese imported from the Amalfi coast. The one untouchable I ate was called the Verace, and it was delicious, a simple pie of robust tomato sauce and large patches of mozzarella di bufala on a chewy, blistered crust. On my next visit I dove into the kitchen's lengthy selection of "classic and modern Italian pizzas," and enjoyed a satisfying Zio Alfonso, which is basically a spicy sausage and mushroom pie. It's all crowd-pleasing stuff, made extra special by the quality of ingredients and skill in the kitchen.
With its first-rate pastas and pizzas, Tramonti offers an excellent new option for both East Village locals and night-on-the-town visitors alike. Note that they're still waiting for their beer and wine license, so it's currently BYOB, and they're not charging a corking fee for any bottles you want to bring yourself.
Tramonti is located at 130 St. Marks Place just west of Avenue A, and is open from 5 p.m. to midnight on Monday through Thursday, from noon to midnight on Friday and Saturday, and from noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday (212-260-1441; tramontipizzanyc.com)