Our latest installment of Quick Bites brings us to Bushwick for homemade pasta.
In January, the Mexican-born, Bushwick-raised Taco Tapia opened a homemade-pasta restaurant named Nicandra's (after his mom) on Irving Avenue just off Myrtle, a part of the neighborhood that has seen a notable influx of new places to eat and drink over the past few years, from the aggressively-themed Boobie Trap to the excellent bakery L'imprimerie.
Nicandra's—with a comfortable, brick-walled interior—seats about 18 at a series of utilitarian tables in the narrow dining area (the kitchen takes up the other half of the space), with a few more spots at a counter in the front window. There is some sidewalk seating available, too, though you may get hit with some air conditioner water from the apartment right above. The music is poppy and fun (Phoenix, Foster the People), the servers friendly and confident with their suggestions.
The Nicandra's menu is almost all pasta, though you'll find plenty of meat and veggies mixed in or on the side. This is freshly-made (as opposed to dry) pasta, so it's all pretty soft and welcoming to whatever the kitchen decides to pile on top. The portions are entree-sized, and my feasting party made quick work of three of the options, the best of which was the Squid Ink Sagnarelli, the rectangular, briny noodles tossed with bits of rock shrimp, gamy n'duja sausage, and an attention-getting amount of red chiles.
The Pappardelle also satisfied. Here the wide, flat pasta was served in a bowl with a hearty duck ragu, grated sharp parmesan and sweet black raisins adding depth to the dish. Less lively, though easily perked up with some requested black pepper, was the Fazzoletti with a brown-butter sage sauce, a bit of corn, a few mild radishes, and microgreens on top.
Of the two starters we ate the big winner was the Wild Mushroom Mix, a tangle of chewy, caramelized fungi covered in a runny egg. The Heirloom Tomato Salad looked pretty, and the wedges of bocconcini cheese played their salty/creamy part well, but the headliner didn't deliver with nearly enough juiciness or fresh, high-summer tomato flavor. There was also an amuse-bouche (ah, Bushwick 2017!), a shot of thick Parmesan and cream "soup."
Nicandra's is a solid neighborhood spot, perfect for multiple types of occasions or just whenever you feel like eating somewhere a bit more grown-up than nearby Pizza Party. The kitchen crew is clearly talented, and the better dishes seem to rely more on cooking skill than the quality of ingredients. It's also BYOB, at least for now.
Nicandra's is located at 264 Irving Avenue between Menahan and Bleecker Streets, and is open for dinner at 5:30 until 11 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday, until 11:30 on Friday and Saturday, and until 10 p.m. on Sunday. Nicandra's also serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. CLOSED MONDAY. (718-381-2699; nicandras.com)