Last night we picked a new restaurant for my mother's birthday: Lunetta, on Broadway near the Flatiron Building. The restaurant already has a well-regarded outpost in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, so I suppose choosing it wasn't a total shot in the dark.
James and I are fortunate enough to live in a restaurant-rich neighborhood, but some new places, such as Bar Stuzzichini, underwhelm (though James likes it for after-work drinks). The evening at Lunetta did not start off auspiciously, as we sat right across from the kitchen doors. James thought he might vomit, looking at the line prep as he ate. I didn't care, because the kitchen seemed spotless. (If we'd been instead, let's say, at the Chinatown dive NY Noodletown, so my mother could enjoy the crispy duck, I would rather have eaten toenails than have looked into the kitchen). But the night only got better from there.
We ordered a well-priced Nebbiolo that we'd tried on our honeymoon in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. I tucked into a "crisp greens" salads with a shaved parmesan and anchovy dressing. It was fabulous. The lettuce was fresh and buttery, absolutely the opposite of bagged lettuce--it had no gross salady aftertaste or wilted leaves slime. The dressing was just right, fishy and salty but neither overly so. James's beet salad was delish, as was my father's surprising brussels sprouts salad, which consisted of sprouts leaves and succulent red onion. My mother's fried artichokes were light and crunchy. The salad prep occurred behind a bar right next to us, in the back of the restaurant near the kitchen door. That salad guy knows his way around greens.
My snapper over stewed tomatoes, olives, and capers was really tasty. The tomatoes were pulpy and fresh, and the fish really delicate. James ordered pork chop (the pork having been purveyed, we were told on the menu, by the brother of one of James's colleagues) over black lentils. So flavorful--in contrast, of course, fish can only provide so much taste. My mother got the meatballs, a signature dish of the chef. They were so tasty, chewy and sweetish, with raisins. The only thing I didn't try was my father's octopus, an app that he ordered as a main. I have to say, it didn't look appetizing, though Dad said the taste was spot on. Our waiter was super-green (the restaurant itself has been open for less than two weeks!). But he didn't mangle putting a candle on my mother's dessert, a classic tartufo filled with hazelnut gelato.
Overall, I was very pleased with the experience. The diners were suitably hip that my mother felt like she was having fun for her birthday, but the food wasn't trendy, it was hearty and classic, kind of like what we enjoyed in the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of Italy. And that's a very high compliment.