19 1st Ave
New York, NY 10003
E.L. had her birthday dinner here recently. I was pretty stoked because I love Italian food (as you know from my delicious trip to Italy!) and had heard from a number of friends that it was worth going to.
J.L. ordered the Wood Fire Roasted Eggplant ($7.95) with cyprus black sea salt and peperoncino oil. The menu description says it “Melts in your mouth!” None of the other menu items had any descriptors beyond the ingredients, so I felt like this had to be a signature. Also, Wood fire roast anything and I’ll probably love it. Sadly, all of our expectations were way too high. It was mushy, bland, and the skin was really hard, almost like plastic. Not only was it unsavory, the eggplant also lacked its natural sweetness. No bueno!
I had the special, which was a Vongole. Can’t remember how much it was, but all the pasta prices ranged from $12 to $18 ish I believe. I’ve been on a vongole kick lately. As a kid, I never liked non-creamy or non-tomatoey pastas. As an adult, I now love the more subtle garlic and olive oil nuances and the not so subtly infused clam flavor. Deeeeelicious! Spaghetti was thinner than usual, and very al dente. Excuse me while I go wipe off the drool from my laptop… (it’s almost dinner time as I write this, forgive me).
LAW got the Mezzi Rigatoni Polpettini Ragu ($15.95) aka. baby meatballs in ragu. He was pretty offended, but I had no other word to describe this pasta other than “normal.” It was fine. The pasta was pretty al dente, but the quality tasted like the Barilla brand I make at home. No chewiness to the al dente. It’s just hard, and after a while, soft (heh..heh…hehhhh). The meatballs were unmemorable. A bit bland. Tomato sauce was pretty good. I think I would be really happy if I had made this at home, but paying $16 for it is a bit hefty in my opinion.
LAW and I also shared a Margherita with olives (~$14). Reminded me of the pizza we had in Naples, in that it was on the lighter, blander side. The natural flavor from the ingredients therefore stood out more. The crust was airy, dry, and slightly charred at the bottom. I prefer the more saucy, soupy kind. So… I probably wouldn’t come just for their pizzas. There are so many other superior pizza places in the area (LUZZOS).
In conclusion, I probably won’t go out of my way to eat here. I prefer Gemma (need to blog) to Lil Frankies. Both are in this price range and have a good variety on their menus. Gemma just does everything slightly better. Oh, but Lil Frankies is good for groups! We sat at a huge round table that could probably fit 15 people.