The team behind perennially popular Italian restaurants Dell'Anima and L'Artusi have expanded their empire yet again, opening L'Apicio in the Village earlier this week. Similar to its predecessors, the name comes from a 1790 cookbook by Francesco Lenoardi, a Roman chef whose six volume work contains the first known recipe of tomato sauce and pasta. Chef Gabe Thompson's dishes go beyond red sauce, mixing classic and contemporary Italian dishes with honest and comforting results.
A meal begins with a nice selection of salads and small plates, like the seasonally appropriate Quail "a la Plancha" with pancetta, butternut squash and pumpkin seeds ($16). Meat and fish dishes of Roasted Chicken with fennel, lemon, olives and potatoes ($23) and Wild Striped Bass with black lentils, sofritto crudo and frisee ($26) seem appealing, but the house-made pasta and special polenta offerings really stand out. For the prior, try the cavatelli tossed with tangy wild boar en agrodulce and pecorino ($18) or eggy Tajarin with porcini mushrooms, garlic and thyme ($22).
The restaurant's meatballs recently won top prize at the NYC Food and Wine Festival's Meatball Madness; try them atop creamy polenta, served "Alla Spianatora" here, or family style. Not into the meat? Try the roasted mushrooms or broccoli rabe toppers instead or order a dish from Chef Thompson's entirely vegan menu consisting of almost a dozen items.
Unlike the dainty Dell'Anima, the sprawling space at L'Apicio accommodates all types of diners with multiple distinct dining areas. First, the 15-seat lounge, with comfy booths and chairs where diners can sip a cocktail or have a small bite before being seated. The bar area provides seating for 12 at the walnut bar top and an additional 20 on high tops stationed nearby, ideal for diving deeply into Joe Campanale's extensive 300 bottle wine list and creative cocktails.
A 35-seat private dining room provides a nice focal point, with glass shelves of olive oil bottles, glasses and decanters making up one wall and a temperature controlled wine room making up the other. Black leather banquettes and more tables encircle the main dining space and during warmer months diners can opt to sit outdoors in the small adjoining courtyard.
13 East 1st Street // 212-533-7400 // Sunday-Wednesday from 5:30-11:00 pm, and Thursday-Saturday from 5:30-midnight