A meal at Perla will likely prompt two responses: "Wow, this is a really beautiful place to have dinner," and "Wait, there's tripe in this?"
In partnership with Fedora's Gabe Stulman, Perla highlights the cooking of executive chef Michael Toscano. After his time at Babbo and Eataly's Manzo, he's built a menu that focuses on upscale, subtle variations of Italian classics which look simple and welcoming on the plate, if not in the execution. "The dishes should appear simple, but then you taste them and ask, 'what did they do to make this so complex and wonderful?'"
The food is served in a similarly deceptive space, the kind of luxuriously attractive drawing room that only your secretly wealthy friend could put together so effortlessly. (That framed drawing on the wall? It's from the 1880's.) In other words, Perla fits right in with the townhouses on Minetta Lane, but it evokes a swanky, legitimately fun dinner party of the well-to-do, welcoming and friendly in all respects. That includes, if you order carefully, the wallet. Though main dishes currently range around $20 to $30 a plate, some of the pasta primi are only slightly pricier than your average neighborhood trattoria.
Toscano puts some interesting spins on the "Italian classics done right and slightly different" formula. He's committed to nose-to-tail eating, but cleverly and unobtrusively integrates it into his dishes: garganelli with tomato sauce, guanciale, and red chile has a pleasantly mild funk from finely ground tripe; a sleek seared medallion of foie gras sits on a small fritter of minced pig's tail.
There are bolder attempts as well: the wood-burning oven, visible from the dining room, will soon be roasting whole lamb and veal heads, to be served with their respective braised spines. It's rustic Italian party food married to refined technique.
Take a look at the slideshow above for some more of Perla's dishes and some shots of the dining room.