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Malaparte, 753 Washington St., West Village, NYC
On a stroll one warm late summer evening, heading for another of the 75 Italian restaurants in the West Village on our seemingly never-ending list, we passed a very humble looking establishment just two blocks from our apartment…there was no sign announcing its name but there were plenty of customers enjoying tasty looking dishes at the street side café tables. So when we confirmed that they could squeeze us in (they do not take reservations for parties less than four), we spontaneously changed our plans and decided to be adventurous. How fortuitous, as we’ve now been back to Malaparte (as we learned it is called) several more times since. This unassuming, reasonably priced, authentic Northern Italian restaurant is the real deal and has quickly become our favorite neighborhood place.
That first night it was fairly crowded but we managed to snag a street-side table; the traffic on Bethune is light and not too noisy. We’ve subsequently sat indoors which is moderate in size with a pleasant ambiance – exposed brick walls appointed with quirky kitchen antiques and high ceilings – they’ve preserved the look and feel of the old NY building in which it resides. Service from the native Italian wait staff was friendly – attentive without being overbearing. Fresh bread and olive oil came quickly to accompany our first glass of wine.
Despite the Italian tradition of having the salad following the entrée, we went American style and started with Insalata Del Campo (fresh spring salad) with just the right light touch of virgin olive oil and balsamic dressing. We followed with a homemade 8 in. artichoke and prosciutto pizza with a thin, perfect brick oven crust (which is equally at home as an appetizer or main course) and a delicious homemade Lasagna Bolognese. We finished with the dark chocolate cake topped with a light cream. There was no “bad part” of this great meal!
In subsequent visits we sampled the Zuppa di Peche, a generously large bowl of very tasty seafood soup with shrimp, calamari, clams & fish of the day, the vegetable lasagna (made with artichokes and a white bechamel sauce – even better than the Bolognese), and pasta vongole (with fresh baby clams). The vongole was good, not great but for years I’ve been trying in vain to reproduce one of my favorite dishes when traveling in Italy… I think it’s the type of clams they use. We also tried the dishes from our first visit again without disappointment. My only hesitation in recommending this place is a selfish one… I don’t want to have difficulty getting a table!