Date Night: Supper
All restaurants worth their kosher salt want to satisfy their customers, but Supper exudes a feeling of homeyness: outside seating that feels like a front porch, tables apportioned among a few human-sized rooms. Thanks to a large open-air kitchen, this Italian restaurant in the East Village smells really, really good, too. And just like at home, Supper doesn't take credit cards. It imports ingredients from the motherland when possible, then serves rustic specialities with the occasional whimsical twist.
Asparagus, how we've missed you! It's been a long time since we've seen it on a menu, so we excitedly ordered the grilled asparagus ($11.95). It arrived lightly dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon, char marks delightfully visible. Even as the temperatures fluctuate from T-shirt to winter coat weather and back, this vegetable is a sure sign that spring is finally coming. And fresh produce deserves minimalist preparation. Nicely done, Supper.
Our second appetizer, prosciutto di Parma ($12.95), also nodded to the passing of time: whispers of prosciutto from Parma, Italy, had been wrapped around hunks of pear, then covered with hard squares of Parmesan. A vision in beige. The fruit base changes regularly, depending on what's ripe. Again, you can't go wrong with these ingredients.
So far, so traditional... and so easy to re-create in your own kitchen. We sat outside, a two-top with a view of East 2nd, including an excellent mural by Tats Cru that couples angular tags and figures. We drank homemade lemonade ($2.95), as pink as spring's first sunburn, that could have used another teaspoon of sugar. Like our own moms, maybe the chefs here would rather we don't put our dentist's kids through private school. Occasionally, a too-large truck rumbled by. At around 7 pm, the staff flipped on the heat lamps, warming us considerably but causing our food to look as if it had just arrived from the Red Planet.
Inside, the large front room gives way to smaller rooms in back, all decorated with wood, antique mirrors, and drapes. With apartments rising above, the space feels like it might once have been a tenement. Candles offset the heaviness. Sitting at one of the communal tables with friends, splitting orders of the daily risotto ($15.95-19.95), would make for a nice evening. Those with romance in mind, though, should snag one of the little tables or sit at the counter overlooking the kitchen. Perhaps you'll even learn a thing or do about food prep.
Due to the lights outside, our pappardelle ($16.95) appeared angry. Luckily that attitude didn't extend to the taste, which was perfectly amiable. The wide swatches of starch had been gently mixed with burst cherry tomatoes, peas, and asparagus. We were offered cheese but no pepper, an unfortunate oversight. Still, there was enough for dinner and the next day's lunch.
When we asked about the roast leg of pork ($17.95), our server mentioned a meat gravy reduction and side of escarole. He didn't mention that it would be playfully styled to look like an open-faced sandwich. Yet it was: the buttery polenta grilled and molded to look like bread, the greens plumped like lettuce, roasted garlic dolloped about like mayonnaise, slices of meat slipping off the juicy pile. We eat out, in part, for dishes like these: cooked well, jauntily served.
Supper is the kind of casual, effortlessly charming place every neighborhood deserves. It's best for: a date when you hardly feel like leaving home.
About the authors: Jessica Allen and Garrett Ziegler have been eating out together since 2002 and writing We Heart New York since 2006.