928 Broadway, New York NY 10010 (map); 212-780-510; barstuzzichini.com
Service: Casual and professional
Setting:Comfortable, modern room; lots of wood and tile, illuminated by Edison bulbs
Compare to:Osteria Morini, 'inoteca, Eataly
Cost: Three courses, $19
There was a time when Bar Stuzzichini was the only game in town—at least, in the part of town in which it resides. But since opening just over three years ago, the landscape of Flatiron and Gramcery Italian dining has changed radically. 'intoteca opened over on 3rd Avenue in early 2009, offering an essentially identical concept, and at the higher end both A Voce and SD26 opened at the other end of Madison Square Park. But the most serious challenge has been posed by Eataly, the Mario Batali-helmed juggernaut that landed a few blocks from Bar Stuzzichini. But as a rising tide raises all boats, Bar Stuzzichini should be able to benefit from the increased local interest in Italian cuisine and the spillover from Eataly, which is often packed beyond capacity.
Bar Stuzzichini, at least at lunchtime, offers a more serene dining option than the hustle and bustle of Eataly.
You start things off with two selections from the stuzzichini section of the menu, which is well stocked with meats, crostini and cheeses. Since things are feeling distinctly autumnal in New York these days, I opted for the delicate meatballs pomodoro—tender meaty spheres in a tangy sauce—and a generous wedge of frittata stuffed with potato and redolent with onion. Both were well-executed if not ground breaking, but considering that combined they would cost $12 a la carte they make the $19.95 price point for the full menu seem a bargain proposition.
Unlike a lot of lunch deals that restrict one to a small selection of main course items, lunch at Bar Stuzzichini spans the whole menu—all salads, pastas, sandwiches and primi are available.
A roasted beet salad ($9 a la carte) came with dotted with crunchy pistachio nuts, wedges of tart orange, and salty shards of Pecorino. The beets themselves tended towards the dry side, but the flavor was spot-on.
Heartier appetites will appreciate the quantity of eggplant Parmigiana ($18 a la carte) provided, as well as the vibrant tomato sauce and the charred, crispy edges of the slab, but the layers of eggplant were a tad too oily. I think I might have been disappointed had I paid full price.
For dessert I chose the flaky Sfogliatelle, but gelato and a canoli are also available.
Bar Stuzzichini has struck the perfect price point for the quantity and quality of its fare. If the deal was the $24.07 seen so often for a three-course lunch deal, I think it would be hard to recommend, but given the generous portion and unrestricted menu options it makes its $19.95 a fair price.