How much do you love Da Silvano? A lot? Really, really a lot? If so, you're in luck, because the enterprising restauranteur Silvano Marchetto has effectively colonized Sixth Avenue between Houston and Bleecker: first Da Silvano, then Da Silvano Bistecca, and now Scuderia.

Sure, officially, Scuderia is the brainchild of his daughter, Leyla Marchetto, who was once a fashion publicist--the perfect qualification for running a restaurant, since you know how those fashion people love to chow down. We don't know Marchetto junior by sight, but Silvano was definitely in the house, looking befuddled.

"I looked around, and I didn't see anyone I knew," he said, to someone he eventually realized he knew. He was even wearing the infamous $895 custom-designed Scuderia sneakers, which was molto Silvano of him.

It may be to early to tell how the food will shape up--at this point it's different on different nights. On the first night we went, everything was underseasoned--undersalted or underdressed, like this otherwise appealing-looking insalata di rucola, with baby rucola, tomatoes and shaved parmesan. The next time we tried it, it weighed in at "fine." The same goes for the beet salad, below, which was disappointing because it looked delicious. When we returned another night, someone seemed to have rediscovered the salt shaker.

One must-order on any snacky Italian menu is usually the arancini (fried rice balls). Scuderia's are served with a very tasty traditional ragu, in which meat is cooked slowly in tomatoes, then removed from the final sauce before serving. But--horror of horrors--the balls themselves were made of brown rice! This is highly unorthodox, and not in a good way. Please, please, do not let the insidious creep of brown rice into rice balls be the legacy of fashion affecting food. (For proper arancini that will rock your world, go to Manganaro's.)

The polpette, meatballs with fresh tomato, fared better, since there was nothing unorthodox about them, just a crunchy exterior, mildly seasoned interior, and a nice sauce. And the specials are usually good, like a bruschetta with tomatoes and olives.

On both nights, at this interlude between courses, we looked up and noticed that the entire room was full of women. The ratio of women to men was at least 3 to 1, and most of the men there had been dragged by women, cavewoman-style. "It's like a chick factory," J.Marciano quipped. "I'm suddenly getting my period...and so is everyone else in the room."

It was hard to have this conversation sotto voce, however, since you had to scream to make yourself heard. (J.Marciano actually lost her voice after dining here.) I've been in German beer halls that were quieter than Scuderia, and that's with an oompah band.

At least we were distracted by the food. Pizza is supposed to be the star player here, and expectations were running high because of the ecstatic ravings of commenters who attended sneak preview dinners. On the nights we went, the pizza ranked as good but not spectacular. Where was the crispy, thin, slightly charred crust we had dreamed of? Not to get all Gael Greene on you, but the ideal slice of pizza should stand up in your hand, not get all limp and floppy.

Scuderia deserves points for putting an egg on the yummy occhio di bue (eye of the ox) pizza, above, along with spinach, pancetta, and pecorino, but there was little crunch to the crust. The bianca al pesto, right, was quite good, however, somehow crispier and made with an addictive pesto dotted amid the ricotta.

(Side note: a surprisingly excellent pizza was discovered at the relatively touristy joint Three of Cups in the E.Vill--the Sicilia, with mozzarella, tomato and "a hint of anchovy"--look at the char below!)

Back to Scuderia, where they can make a mean fish sauce, as evidenced in the seafood stew and the squid ink pasta with seafood. Both had a fresh, intense seafood flavor that made us crave summer.

Raffetto's Pepper Pappardelle, served with a beef cheek ragu, was underwhelming. As at Da Silvano across the street, the actual beef trumped the pasta: the skirt steak was a better way to go.

If you get nothing else here, get the dessert pizza with Nutella and mascarpone--it's insane. Sure, it already exists in alternate form at Gemma, but this one isn't folded into an overwhelming calzone of oozing Nutella. It has just the right chocolate-to-bread ratio, and the slightly sour mascarpone cuts the sweetness nicely.

The prices are a lot gentler than Da Silvano--with wine, and they have several nice ones by the glass, the tab at Scuderia came to about $60 per person. The staff is great--fast and attentive. We loved our waitress Sorida.

So who's the market here, other than an overwhelming majority of women? Scuderia is more of a challenge to Bar Pitti than Da Silvano proper. The old people (read: over 40) and celebrities who frequent Da Silvano will probably have no patience for Scuderia--at least at nighttime. Why? At Da Silvano, food is obviously beside the point, but if I know old people--and I do, from personal experience--they like to hear themselves talk. Also, the intimate upstairs area at Scuderia, supposedly for celebs, can feel more Siberia than special, if Siberia were a deafeningly loud expanse of white tundra.

But there's one crucial factor here, as at Da Silvano: summer sidewalk seating. Will Scuderia have it? Because a bianca al pesto eaten al fresco would be a very nice thing indeed.

10 Downing Street, entrance on Sixth Avenue
New York, NY


Anonymous said...

You are fabulous, Gastro Chic! I love your blog and your witty insights. Please visit my blog at http://www.hollypinafore.blogspot.com. I give a mix of amateur video and text commentary for food lovers :)