Open Until: 2:00 am, Tue-Sat; 12:00am, Sun-Mon
Drinking Until: 2:00 am, Tue-Sat; 12:00am, Sun-Mon
Food Until: 2:00 am, Tue-Sat; 12:00am, Sun-Mon
Pasta-Fixe: 12:00am-2:00am, Tue-Sat
Last week, Joe Campanale and Gabe Thompson launched a late night "Pasta-Fixe" at their popular West Village restaurant Dell' Anima. The deal: a plate of the restaurant's highly regarded pasta and a glass of wine for $25. This would hardly be a bargain most anywhere else, but when a restaurant of Dell' Anima's caliber comes a-knockin' her siren song is hard to resist. In the land of late-night noshing, this is one odyssey worth making.
It's a lively late-night crowd; on an icy winter night, we literally had to slide past a group of whooping 30-somethings to get in. One of the bar patrons, a woman who was clearly a regular, called my girlfriend over mid-meal to show her a parlor trick involving two corks and some amount of contortion—Houdini would have blushed. More than a few people had clearly put the cocktail list to good use. Split into aperitivi and "after-dinner cocktails", the menu is punctuated by Italian digestifs like Campari and Vergano Americano, which add a lovely balanced bitterness to nearly every drink on offer. Danny, our affable server, explained that they started the special to remind people of their late closing time, since the restaurant isn't necessarily the first place you think of for midnight meals—way to take full advantage of that coveted liquor license.
The Pasta-Fixe lets you choose between a rotating menu of four pastas and four glasses of wine, and there are some fine deals to be had. The spaghetti (normally $20) brimmed with briny nuggets of sweet peekytoe crab meat, and was tossed with urchin, chives, and parmiggiano reggiano. (On the show Chopped, Scott Conant frequently bemoans the combination of cheese and seafood as sacrilege in the canon of Italian cooking. Here is a dish to turn everyone into sinners.) The seafood's sweetness shines through with brightness from the chives and salty funk from the reggiano, while a topping of breadcrumbs brings everything together by lacing the dish with crunch.
From the bruschette selection, we ordered cannellini ($5), a creamy mound of the humble beans elevated with preserved lemon and fruity aleppo pepper served with grilled pucks of pliant crusty bread. Dell' Anima's bruschette are as beloved as their pastas and a great example of Thompson's ability to showcase complex flavors with simple flavor combinations. We also tried the restaurant's signature brussels sprouts ($7), sauteed with red onion, smoked pumpkin seeds and dried cherries. The dish has become so requested that Campanale recently posted a video of the recipe on his blog.
The wine pairing, a glass of ultra-crisp 2004 Verdicchio "Tralivio" Sartarelli, couldn't have been better chosen. Campanale is something of a wunderkind in the sommelier world, and his picks both here and at his wine bar Anfora down the street are unexpected and well-curated. Heavy on apricot and citrus, the wine's flavor profile accentuated the crabmeat and cut through the richness of the pasta without any dischord. A full bottle costs $92, making this is a very good deal indeed.