637 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014 (at Horatio Street; map); 212-242-3093; corsinocantina.com
Service: Friendly, low-key, competent
Setting: Spacious, sparsely furnished
Compare It To: 'ino, 'inoteca
Must-Haves: Brussels sprouts and mushroom crostini, prosciutto panini, pork osso buco
Cost: $25-$30 for two courses and a glass of wine, tax and tip
If I were to draw up plans for my ideal neighborhood restaurant, it would probably look suspiciously like either 'ino or 'inoteca, Italian wine bars with a seemingly infinite variety of tasty Italian sandwiches and snacks, along with extensive, well-curated Italian wine lists. So when I saw that the 'ino boys, brothers Jason and Joe Denton, had expanded into the far west village with Corsino, I cursed them for not heading up to my neighborhood.
But I got over it—what's the use of being a sore eater?—and headed down there for two lengthy lunches to see what if any difference there was between Corsino and their other immensely appealing spots. The Dentons did bring in a non-'ino chef, Shaunna Sargent, who had been working for years at Del Posto, so maybe she would bring in some fresh thinking.
In fact, we had markedly different experiences each time we went—one meal was more satisfying than not; another was in fact mighty satisfying, with few, if any missteps. I'm hoping that upward trend is one that continues.
We found the crostini a bit overpriced, at $2.50 each—I could see paying $2, even three for $5, given their diminutive size. But for the most part they are four bites of extreme deliciousness, particularly the brussels sprouts and the insanely earthy mushroom Taleggio. And though we didn't go very deep into the list of antipasti, we couldn't resist the Parmesan risotto croquette with wild arugula ($12).
Large plates went from perfectly tasty to unquestionably delicious—the braised heritage pork osso bucco with fennel and onions ($19), the most expensive item on the menu, is one of the best; I barely needed a knife to cut through this beautifully marbled piece of pig, surrounded by sweet onion and fennel. Neither the meatballs nor the pasta was quite as impressive. But I'm a sucker for a good panino, and these guys are master panini makers. (Dish-by-dish breakdown»)
For obsessive fans of 'ino's truffled egg toast—I'm raising my hand here—it should be noted that that extraordinary perfect little sandwich is on the brunch menu. These brothers do know where their bread is buttered, after all.
So damn you, Denton boys. Next time you open another 'ino spin-off, please consider expanding to Brooklyn or the Upper West Side. We all need an 'ino in our neighborhoods, too—no matter what you call it. And if you opened on the Upper West Side, you could call it Upper Westino. (That name is my gift to you.) Reconfigure a few prices for these recessionary times, and you'll have me there as your newest regular.