B and I have officially survived our first year of married life. To say that it had been a whirlwind would honestly be an understatement. We’re hoping that the next 365 days together will be slightly more stable and calm than the first 366. Let's try not to suddenly move across the world, get through 3 jobs, and build any Ikea furniture in the forthcoming year. To celebrate our marital achievement, we treated ourselves to dinner at Via Carota.
Via Carota made its way on to Pete Wells' list of the best restaurants of 2015. On this list he described it as where he sends people 'to get unfussy, delicious food in the West Village'. We'd also heard good things about the pasta and the Negroni. We needed no other reason to choose this is as our anniversary date spot.
Early on a Tuesday evening, the majority of the tightly-packed tables in the windows are already taken. We take the remaining empty one, and sit bolt upright on the Welsh (yes, really, Welsh) chapel chairs, which conveniently have the menus tucked in to the back - where the bible would have been in their first life - for easy, and constant access.
The light pours in through the huge windows, severe light fittings hang from the ceiling, and the plain wooden tables contrast with the smart marble bar, behind which sits endless bottles of amaro, and a blackboard listing several classic Italian cocktails. A classic Negroni and a Negroni Sbagliato (like the classic, but with Prosecco where there would be gin) were ordered, and were sipped alongside chewy, airy sourdough, doused in zingy extra-virgin olive oil.
Burrata with dandelion greens, anchovies, and sundried tomatoes got those taste buds buzzing. It didn't look like much, but the burrata exploded with a creamy interior, which stood up powerfully to the salty mush of anchovies and the sweet tomatoes.
Vegetables feature heavily on Via Carota's menu. With no less than 15 different vegetable-focused options, we tried not let ourselves get overwhelmed by all the choice. We settled on kale doused in crunchy croutons of lardo, which took only seconds to devour: If you want to feel like you're eating your greens, but actually just want to eat salami, this is the way to enjoy them. A more delicate grilled polenta with ramps and bacon arrived at the same time, and we vowed to cook and eat more polenta in the upcoming months. This could well be the best ramps dish of the year so far. And that's a competitive award to win.
We then shared mushroom tortelli and coniglio fritto, aka fried rabbit. The tortelli were wonderfully simple. The lack of focus on presentation was authentically Italian - no garnishes, no extra colors, no smears of purée to be found here. Instead all the attention and care has gone into perfecting the pasta. This is the most comforting, heart-warming dish . Exactly what everyone needs on a rainy weekday. The rabbit was served similarly simply, on top of a fried piece of bread. A crispy, crunchy exterior revealed juicy, intensely flavored rabbit meat inside. My younger self would not have been happy that I had opted to celebrate my anniversary by eating Thumper, but my older, greedier self, was pleased with this tasty decision.
We finished our glass of Chianti and eventually sacrificed our table to the ever-growing line of hungry people in desperate need of a creamy bowl of mushroom tortelli.
Via Carota, 51 Grove Street, New York, NY 10014