Our next installment of Quick Bites brings us to Eldridge Street for mounds of perfectly prepared spaghetti.
Yes, it's named after that Guns N' Roses record and, yes, it only offers one kind of pasta, but there's nothing particularly rock-n-roll, nor gimmicky, about the new Spaghetti Incident on the Lower East Side.
Opened a month ago on a quiet stretch of Eldridge Street, this is a comfortable, laid-back spot decked out in unassuming style with vintage kitchen gadgets, exposed brick, and an open kitchen flanked by a bar at which regulars are already perched, chatting with the friendly, relaxed staff.
Prices are low—nothing on the regular menu goes above $12—and the nice range of classic spaghetti dishes and handful of interesting salads could and should make this an instant go-to spot in a neighborhood that could always use some less-frantic choices.
All of which is not much of surprise, actually, when you learn that one of the principals at Spaghetti Incident is Emanuele Attala, who also co-runs things at the also-appealing Malatesta near the western end of Christopher Street. If early form holds and Spaghetti Incident finds its fans, this could become as much of a vital, cheap-eats institution as its West Village counterpart.
I ate dinner on three nights here over the last few weeks, and always left feeling happy and satisfied. There are nine spaghetti dishes on the menu (or close enough to spaghetti, like bucatini, which is just a bit thicker), plus one special, and all four that I've tried have been terrific. There's nothing crazy going on here, no umami fireworks, just simple plates of thoughtfully composed, well-prepared food.
The Puttanesca, for example, nailed the balance among the salty flavor bombs (capers, anchovies, olives), the sweet and acidic tomato sauce, and the chewy noodles that even everything out. The Carbonara, too, was a delight: creamy, chewy, with ample chunks of pancetta and to which I happily added a few spoonfuls of grated parmesan and a few twists of ground black pepper, both of which are provided unprompted at your table.
Dried pasta provides the base of most of the dishes, including both of the above, but Spaghetti Incident also offers a couple of housemade, fresh spaghetti items as well. My thick and creamy Salmoni and Aspargi was borderline decadent, with plenty of presence from the headliners; and a special one night, Whole Wheat Pasta tossed with a rich pistachio pesto and cubes of juicy zucchini, was superb.
The goofily-named salads are winners as well. The Naked Woman is basically a pile of summertime refreshment, with strawberries, carrots, baby spinach, shaved fennel, hearts of palm, ginger, and pine nuts all finished with a bright lemon dressing. And Kill the Kale is a worthy entrant into that crowded field, with its carrot-ginger dressing and bits of sweet cauliflower, somewhat randomly (though effectively) topped by a trio of fried shrimp.
There are several varieties of Arancini on the menu as well, and though they're not bad by any means—fried cheesy rice is always easy to eat—they aren't really necessary for the complete Spaghetti Incident experience.
Spaghetti Incident feels right for a lot things: a quick pre- (or post-) Sunshine dinner, a low-risk date spot, a comfortable place to linger with some wine and friends, or even dining solo. And the food really is good, much better than the prices would suggest. I could easily see myself eating here a few times a month.
In fact, I worried a bit about blowing the place up, because the waits at Malatesta can be discouraging, but the last time I went, on Saturday at around 8:00, most of the tables were unoccupied, so maybe we can all do our civic duty and throw the it some support. It'd be great if Spaghetti Incident stuck around for... well, how about at least as long as we all had to (not) wait for Chinese Democracy?
Spaghetti Incident is located at 231 Eldridge Street, just north of Stanton, and is open open weeknights from 5:30 to 11:30 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday until 1:30 a.m. Not: Like Malatesta, Spaghetti Incident is CASH ONLY. (646-896-1446)