The Vegetarian Option: Bianca
As online food writers, it is both our duty and our joy to share the amazing food we discover with the internet-at-large—but sometimes we can't resist the temptation to guard our favorite places from the blogosphere. Perhaps it is the fear that the crowds will descend on it like many locusts, or the fear that your best post is now behind you, or that it simply won't be your own little secret any more.
By now you've probably guessed that I have been guilty of just that. But the time has come for me to come clean and play my best card: Bianca. A wonderful little Italian place, and perhaps my favorite restaurant in the city.
I won't pretend this place is a total unknown—the hour-plus long waits will teach you that much—but for how much I ardently adore this place, a surprising number of people have never heard of it.
There's something about this place that instantly charms you. The atmosphere is sweet and cozy: dainty floral plates trim the exposed brick walls. It's cash only, but reasonably priced. The menu is small and never changes, but that's also part of the charm. And the food of course, is delightfully good. Bianca is that little Italian restaurant by which I've come to judge all other little Italian restaurants.
The Lasagnette di Verdure ($8.50) is one of my favorite dishes, and certainly the best thing that's ever happened to an eggplant. Soft layers of eggplant and zucchini are drenched in an amazingly flavorful tomato sauce and then topped with a bit of slightly melted parmesan cheese. The sauce is so good that I've found myself greedily mopping it up with bread before I'm even finished with my plate.
Spaghettini al Pomodoro ($9.50) is a wonderful incarnation of the classic dish. The noodles are just al dente enough to give it a good texture and bite, and the tomato sauce with basil coats each strand perfectly. It's a simple dish, but very well executed and completely satisfying. For something a bit fancier, I always recommend the Raviolo di Ricotta con Burro e Saliva ($9.50, pictured above). The giant, tender, ricotta-sage filled ravioli are bathed in truffle butter.
It took me a long time to discover that Bianca's desserts are worthwhile, but they're so good that even the side of whipped cream is fantastic. I've never had a dessert here that I didn't love, and my most recent discovery— the Tartufo ($6.50)— is no exception. Described somewhat cryptically as "chocolate truffle ice cream" is in fact vanilla ice cream inside chocolate ice cream inside a crust of crunchy hazelnut. Like those dioramas of the Earth's core, except delicious—and with plenty of that amazing whipped cream to boot.
There, I did it. Consider this your Christma-kwanza-kah present. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.