The place is tiny (46 people), the food delicious, the location midway between my two favorite downtown art movie houses (Film Forum and Angelika), and all their pastas are $10. What a find!
The roots of Da Marcella lie in the “humble taverna,” where families cooked for their neighbors and charged very little. As Manuel Moreno, the son of “Marcella,” puts it, “We believe that great food should be affordably priced, and that nobody should get rich feeding they neighbor.” Is he kidding? In New York? No, he’s not.
I have no idea how Da Marcella manages the Trifecta of good food, reasonable prices and pleasant service, but it does. And without stinting on the quality of its ingredients. This was particularly evident in the terrific Antipasti enjoyed during a recent press dinner. A layer of ripe avocado sandwiched between two layers of Scottish Wild Salmon mixed with capers melted in my mouth, as a Tartare should ($12). And the tender marinated Spanish Octopus – perfectly charred – with caper berries and tomatoes on a bed of arugula, tasted as good as it looked ($12). But for sheer decadence, nothing beat the salty-and-creamy mix of San Daniele Prosciutto and Burrata, drizzled with a Truffle Sauce dressing, draped over a toasted Crostini ($12). Sheer heaven! These three appetizers, beautifully paired with a lovely Vermentino from Sardinia, would make a wonderful meal in itself, especially if you prefer to go light on the carbs.
More traditional dishes included Chef Francesco’s delicate Veal and Pork Meatballs in a San Marzano tomato sauce ($8) and the house specialty, Artisanal Tagliatelle Pasta with a slow-cooked (eight hours) Bolognese Sauce ($10). I preferred the Braised Colorado Lamb Shank braised in a rich, red wine sauce, well complemented by the creamy polenta ($22). If this is your kind of dish, you will not be disappointed.
Of the various Italian red wines offered, including an excellent medium-bodied Cannonau di Sardegna, I loved the 2011 Cabernet Montepulciano “Integolo” Sada (Toscana).
All desserts are $7. My absolute favorite was the cheese cake – creamy, light (but not too light) and delicious.
A word of advice. Da Marcella is popular. Reservations are highly recommended, especially if you plan dinner around 7 or thereafter. If you go with a large group of friends, consider asking for one of the two communal tables.
Photos by Eleanor Foa Dienstag
Da Marcella Village
142 West Houston (Between MacDougal & Sullivan Streets)
Dinner: 5 p.m. – 11:30 p.m., Mon – Thurs (12 p.m. on Friday and Saturday
Noon to Midnight – Saturday and Sunday
Happy Hour – 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday – Friday