In this city, restaurants come and go faster than you can say "sustainable locavore burger." And even though there are great new additions to the culinary landscape popping up every week, you've gotta give kudos to anyone who can stick it out for over a year. With that in mind, we bring you Still Got It, our tribute to establishments that continue to serve mouthwatering meals and drinks long after the buzz has faded—or if the lingering hype is still justified.
Few food staples speak to the soul quite like the dishes at your neighborhood Italian joint, and this Upper West Side trattoria, which has been feeding the community since 1996, proves just that. Gennaro has undergone a few expansions since its first inception, stretching from a tiny storefront to a full-fledged Amsterdam Avenue restaurant with a solid bar. But the food—hearty, simple and unpretentious—continues to impress locals with its robust Northern Italian flavor.
Gennaro's decor is much like the the food it serves; classic and elegant, but entirely laid back. Scattered mahogany tables accompany wall-to-ceiling wine cabinets stocked with sparkling bottles, framed pictures and porcelain plates hang on the walls, and a big front window gives diners access to passersby on Amsterdam.
And then, there are the dishes. In terms of antipasti, Gennaro is known for serving delectable specials, like an aqueous watermelon and goat cheese salad ($8), in addition to permanent menu standbys like the tender carpaccio di manzo ($12.50), thinly-sliced raw beef sprinkled with grana padano, and grilled calamari served with Sicilian cous cous ($12.50). Their big entrees, or secondi piatti, aren't quite on par with the rest of the offerings, though they serve a delectable braised lamb shank ($19), in addition to a buttery orata with mussels, potatos, tomatoes, asparagus and pesto ($23.95) and a serviceable oven-roasted pork chop served with polenta ($18.50).
But the real star here is the pasta, cooked to al dente perfection and tossed in piquant, flavorful sauces. The spaghetti alla chitarra ($14.95), simmered with garlic, olive oil and cherry tomatoes, is simplicity at its best, and the freshly-made pasta stands way out from the boxed stuff. The rigatoni con melanzane ($13) might be the best dish on the menu, the thick rolls of pasta immersed in creamy, tomatoey cooked eggplant. And the bucatini al cacio e pepe ($15.95), a classic central and Northern Italian dish, submerges the tubular spaghetti in a rich, cheesey sauce spiced up with fiery Sicilian pepper.
Gennaro also offers a solid collection of wines, both from regions all over Italy and more local vineyards. Do note that the restaurant is cash only, and they do not take reservations; make sure to bring enough bucks (or a check) to cover dessert, because the flourless hazelnut and chocolate torte ($6.50) is a must.
Gennaro is located at 665 Amsterdam Ave between 92nd and 93rd Street on the Upper West Side (212-665-5348, gennaronyc.com).