Saturday, July 11, 2009

Second best isn't always so bad...LUPA

I was hoping Wednesday night I would have been able to post that I had just come from an amazing meal at Babbo. Getting reservations as Babbo is probably one of the hardest things I have tried to finagle recently. I am almost proud to admit this is not really my obsession but a co-worker’s. I simply jumped on board as added support and wanted to lend a hand at trying to accomplish the task of landing a table at Babbo. The rules are pretty straight forward. The restaurant is opened from 5:30-11pm seven days a week. You can call one month in advance of the numerical date of your choice in hopes of getting availability. There is a special reservation number that is open from 10am -11pm. Weekend reservations are essentially impossible.

For work I travel a fair amount. Needless to say one of my first priorities after I find out I am going somewhere is to search for where I want to eat. Not to boost but I have gotten really quite good at these Internet searches. Thus after finding out that I would be in the city for a day I proposed trying to get reservations at Babbo on Wednesday night. This all happened about two weeks before the actual date but lucky after about 12 attempts of getting through I was told there was an opening at 5:30pm or 11pm. I quickly took the 5:30 slot. But this post is not about Babbo…unfortunately the visit got postponed by one day making the dinner at Babbo impossible once again.

Mario Batali has several other restaurants in the city and Lupa ended up being the pick for the night. It is situated on a non-descript side street just north of W. Houston street and is fairly small, probably not seating more than 50 people at a time. Being there at 5pm it was quiet but the time the meal ended at 8pm the bar was full as were all of the tables; people were being turned away at the door.

There were 5 of us dining which is enough to get quite a variety of food to sample. Nothing was disappointing. We started with salads and a platter of prosciutto. The slices came out on a long wooden board and was easily enough to feed two people. There was a basic mixed greens salad, Misticanza but I was hoping for something a bit more unique. This came in the form of a dandelion greens and pig jowls. (Guanciale: Cured pig jowl.) The menu was in Italian; luckily the menu had a nice glossary on the back for translation. Batali is famous for weird and eccentric additions to the menu. I found the glossary quite helpful. Pig jowls in Italian is much more appetizing. The waiter brought out plates of greens and a separate saute pans with the pieces of pig jowls and oil. The pig jowl pieces and hot oil/grease was poured on top of the greens. In reality the pig jowl was bacon. The salad ended up being quite good with a fatty/salty taste. I don't really like bacon but even I found this enjoyable for a one-time try. Who can turn down the opportunity for pig jowls?

Not wanting to heavy of a meal, we decided on pasta dishes for the second course. Pasta at Lupa is all handmade. We got the two specials one with a Pork ragu, the other with pork sausage and a butter and basil sauce. It occurs to me now that this must have been pig night at Lupa. Some else got a regular menu item of Gnocchi with ricotta. The little tasting I had melted in my mouth, smooth and creamy. If I went back I would order this. The serving were smaller than in most restaurants but enough to fill you up and definitely worth the money.

Although full I am not one to pass up desert, especially not one in a famous restaurant. We decided on two. The first, Lupa Tartufo, basically a ice cream ball with a cherry in the center. The ice cream is then covered in chocolate or in this case hazelnut. It was devine and perfect on a summer night. This was not my first pick but I am so happy we ended up getting it to share. The second was African spiced dates with mascarpone cheese. I think this was by far the most different desert choice. We it came to the table we certainly had a laugh. The dish was not the most appealing to the eyes. It was so sweet and heavy, not in a bad way but something to warm you from the inside out on a cold winter night. I loved it.

The only down side was the wine list, large and completely Italy. I don't drink Italy wine and the only thing I would have added to this meal was a nice glass of deep red wine. The service was great from the hostess to the waiter, and the runners. Everything flowed smoothly without any feelings of being rushed or waiting. All in all....yum, yum. I would return anytime.

Lupa: she-wolf

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