Scarpetta – is the Pasta Worth The Price?

Scarpetta is famous for its spaghetti. Not for its rigatoni, not for its foie gras sauce, not for its tenderly made agnoletti perfumed with an authentic Italian nonna’s blood, sweat and tears.
It is famous for its tomato and basil spaghetti.
 And any place charging $24 for something I can make at home for $5 has better be pretty special.
 The restaurant was tucked into an unassuming doorway on 14th street, and once inside, we were transported from the touristy, fashionista scene that floods the area between Meatpacking and Union Square into a modern 2 room restaurant that was elegant, yet pulsating with energy. A small bar in front held enough stylish women to remind me that I was in Meatpacking (easily my least favorite place in Manhattan – I’m really just not cool enough to be there), but the vibe at the restaurant was relaxed and friendly enough to put me at ease.
After being quickly seated, we were presented with a rich and spicy olive oil, a vinegary eggplant caponata (truly excellent – the eggplant’s flesh was meaty and retained a bit of bite while the skin was shockingly soft and smooth) and some very hard butter. The first two dips were outstanding, the third got better upon standing as it softened and released its sweet taste.
Here is a shot of the BEST thing in the assorted bread basket: The mozzarella, salami and basil filled stromboli. Zesty, meaty, garlicky salami collided with soft and stretchy tufts of bread and creamy mozzarella. Dipping that bread in the tangy caponata could have been my entire meal. Don’t worry – I still ate more. I wore my stretchy pants on purpose.
 Creamy polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms. I am a huge polenta fan and this was some of the best I have ever had. It really put mine to shame! Incredibly creamy yet light: As soon as I put a bite in my mouth it dissolved, leaving just the memory of corn and cream in my mouth.
Mixed with heady, meaty truffles and other assorted mushrooms, this dish was a huge hit of umami that blended hearty and light perfectly. The mushroom fricassee tasted so meaty that there might have been veal stock in there or it might just have been the mushrooms that tasted rich and substantial next to that airy polenta. This was the kind of thing of which I could eat a 2 quart pot. Then of course, I would need to take a substantial nap.
 Cured Arctic Char with Horseradish, Pomegranate and Herbs. Do you like smoked salmon? How about cooked trout? Well, this char had the best characteristics of both. The silky, fatty texture of the salmon with the mild, almost sweet taste of trout. The slightest bit fishy, in that wonderful oceanic way that seafood eaters love, it was spiked with hot horseradish and  tart pomegranate seeds. The herbs added a grassy note to the soft and fatty salmon, and it was a light but indulgent starter to a carb heavy meal.
And speaking of carbs…
How about that Spaghetti with Tomato and Basil? It came to the table piping hot (MAJOR plus), in a good sized but not ridiculously huge portion. Smelled just like fresh tomatoes. And tasted?…
Well, it tasted great! Chewy homemade noodles had a toothsome texture and their own earthy, floury flavor. I really haven’t had better spaghetti noodles anywhere – there was as much integrity in these noodles as one tends to find only in ramen restaurants. The sauce is opportunely made only with garlic-and-red-pepper infused olive oil, tomatoes and basil, with Parmesan cheese and a bit of butter thrown in at the very end of the cooking process. The sauce had a wonderful mouthfeel – creamy and thick without being cloying, and it tasted solely of tart, bright tomatoes and sweet, earthy basil, with just a HINT of nutty Parmesan cheese. The butter was really necessary to give the dish depth and keep it from being too one note.
So…was the meal great? Was it worth the money?
I would have to say yes…and no. The stromboli was totally amazing, the polenta was extraordinary, and the wine list by the glass was varied and delicious. The spaghetti was totally satisfying and just what I felt like. But was it worth $24? Um…no. No bowl of Spaghetti Marinara..which is, let’s be honest, just what this is…is going to be worth more than $15. That’s just the way that I feel – I feel a bit “taken” by the cost. Now, I would STILL recommend this restaurant. It is delicious and the staff was incredibly kind and efficient. But I would recommend splitting the pasta as an appetizer and trying another main course. Unless you disagree with me about the $24 bowl of spaghetti.
In which case, I can’t WAIT for you to come take me out to dinner at Scarpetta. Cause if it’s on your dime…the $24 pasta is priced just right!
Scarpetta on Urbanspoon

Comments

  1. JustinM says:

    I would say $15 is about twice as much as anyone should ever pay for spaghetti marinara, but I certainly see your point.

    I have never heard of stromboli stuffed with meat. I am so intrigued by that.

  2. Kathryn says:

    Fun review! I went to Scarpetta L.A. and couldn't justify the spaghetti either, so I ended up with some other pasta dishes. The standout of the night for me was definitely the polenta–WOW! I didn't even need the truffled mushrooms, and I'm a huge truffles fan. The breads and dips were great, yes (though we pay for it with the overall cost), but I wish I could have tasted the spaghetti–and you made it sound delicious–but for that price tag, I'd rather buy something I know I can't attempt to make myself. Maybe next time!

  3. Fritos and Foie Gras says:

    @Justin-I agree – even $15 would be crazy high, but I could SEE myself spending it, in the way that I could SEE myself winning a huge jackpot at a slot machine. I am a theoretical kind of gal, I guess…and yes, the stromboli was amazing! 😉
    @Kathryn-I totally agree with you! I would go back to order the duck and foie ravioli. That I could not make at home and I would REALLY like to try it!

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