When Elsewhere closed earlier this year, I was quite disappointed. I loved the casual vibe, the fair prices, and the really delicious food. That being said, I don’t know why it took me to check out Casellula, its Hell’s Kitchen mother restaurant that is still thriving.
Casellula is a wine bar that also offers meats, cheeses, and small composed plates. It is quite small, so be sure that you get there on the early side if you don’t want to wait. Also, some of the tables are cramped – this isn’t the best place for a date, because it can get quite loud and crowded, but it’s great for a girls night out – just the ticket for Feisty, Hungry, and myself.
Though the wine by the glass selection is not huge, it is very well curated and priced. This vinho verde is excellent – light, not too dry, and slightly effervescent, as if there are tiny bubbles suspended in it. This is very refreshing and delicious – I could easily drink a bottle of this myself
Crostini with ricotta, hazelnuts, honey, and lemon
Thin slices of toast, topped with creamy ricotta, rich hazelnuts, and just a drizzle of honey. The hazelnuts really put this over the top, emphasizing the milky, clean taste of the ricotta. The lemon was not noticeable on its own, but surely cut through the sweetness of the honey. This might be as good as the sheep’s milk ricotta at Locanda Verde.
White Anchovies with Fennel Fronds and Pickled Shallots
One of the best anchovy dishes I have had in the city. Mild anchovies, tasting more of ocean salt than of fish, tangled with piquant pickled shallots and a few delicate, sweet fennel fronds. Salty, sour, and sweet, these are absolutely addictive, and worth fighting over to get your fair share.
Cabot Clothbound with Brown Sugar Mustard – Feisty’s choice reminds her of an Italian cheese, with its hard, grainy texture and salty taste. Much more complex than a standard cheddar, this is less sharp than I imagined it would be, with really subtle notes of vanilla and nuts.
Hooligan with Pickled Quail Eggs – This soft cheese has a washed rind and a very mild, creamy flavor. The texture is similar to tallegio, but with none of the funk. Served with rich and tangy pickled quail eggs, this cheese is another winner.
Capri Cheese – This cheese is a goat’s milk – ripe, a little oozy, and mildly funky. This is great for someone who likes blue cheese dressing but not blue cheese plain – it has the little bit of tang, but not enough to put them off their feed. The texture is like a triple creme brie, and the thinly sliced oranges are sweet, tart, and sticky – a perfect accompaniment.
Peppadews stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and wrapped in speck
This is an ideal Superbowl food. Salty, meaty, melty, and cheesy, with a slight kick of heat from the peppadews – not a huge amount of spice, and certainly less hot than a jalapeno. This is my favorite dish from the night.
Smoked duck salad with kale, onions, eggs, tomatoes, and croutons
The duck is phenomenal – tender enough to cut with a fork, a light smoky flavor and a pleasant taste that wasn’t overly gamey but definitely had that “ducky” taste. The kale is crisp and slightly wilted under the creamy buttermilk dressing, and the eggs are an excellent rich component to the dish.
Casellula is a total winner. The service is great, the prices are very fair, and the food is really wonderful. Though I wish it were bigger, it’s hard to complain about the restaurant being so popular – it deserves to be mobbed every night!
Though I still miss Elsewhere, it’s nice to know that Casellula is in the neighborhood for all my wine and cheese needs.