Polpettina Math: Bacon and egg fries + cheap growler of Captain Lawrence = happy
When I read Alan Richman’s latest in GQ (you know, the article that claims New York restaurants are creatively bankrupt, the one that awards the US food city crown to the wrong city on the wrong coast —gasp—San Francisco), I hung up on Richman’s ass-ertion that New York was overrun by “big butt” Italian restaurants. Okay: the phrase is attention-grabbing and offensive to some Italian restaurants (not to mention, those with big butts), but here’s the thing—I understood just what Richman meant.
There are so many Italian restaurants, inheritors of the Babbo torch, that roll around in Rabelaisian ecstasies in lashings of “richness” (in foodwriterese, fat). In my experience, people in Italy don’t eat like these restaurants suggest—not even the Bolognese, living in the region that produces the Peninsula’s fattiest foods. Italians eat tons of fresh vegetables and keep their portions small. And because of their love of casting a “bella figura,” Italian butts are never, ever allowed to get big. Massage. Colonics. Diet. Suppositories. Italians stay thin by any means necessary—other than by going to the gym. Don’t get me wrong, I love New York’s big-butt Italians. I will sit in cigarette smoke on a city corner for two summer hours for a table at Frankie’s Spuntino; but I always crawl away from the big-butt experience swearing to eat only salad for the following three days. Balanced, it’s not.
Cue Eastchester’s new Polpettina, the county’s newest Italian, which, though only a 15-seater, promises to go big in every way. Stridenty budget-friendly, Polpettina is jumping on the growler train, and offering deeply discounted half-gallon growler fills for less than it charges for two glasses of Captain Lawrence Kolsch. (That’s $6 per glass, $12 per growler—but only $9 if you bring your own jug). Polpettina offers three craft beers on tap and 18 in bottles and cans. A caveat to the ensuing: Polpettina does offer four salads ($8), two of which are not enriched by burrata, walnuts, or a deep-fried egg—though the farm house has buttermilk dressing, and the Caesar has croutons and parmesan cheese. Other than those, this restaurant serves big, rich food: after eating here, back up to the mirror and decide for yourself about the butt.
A tiny jar of house-made pickles boost a chicken Milanese sandwich at Polpettina
We started with Polpettina’s namesake meatballs, which are offered in a choice of pork, beef, or chicken. Our trio of tender, one-inch pork spheres were energetically spiked with pepperoncino and served with a few welcome leaves of palate-washing broccoli rabe. It seems like a bonus that this $7 trio can be turned into a sandwich with your choice of bread for an additional $3. Fries, culturally off-message, are sold in small ($4) or large ($7) bowls, and come with a choice of six toppings that range from sea salt to bacon and egg. We opted for the bacon-and-egg fries and, to be frank, got all heated about them: there is no more porny pleasure than dipping salty, bacon-bitty French fries into running egg yolk.
Sandwiches ($10) are a big story at Polpettina, and they include some real charmers. We liked the looks of mortadella, escarole, Fontina on brioche, and giggled at the kitschy “chicken parm” served on bastone bread— you know, that fat, sesame-seed-studded “Italian” loaf of yore. We settled on a chicken Milanese—arugula pesto, roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella on ciabatta—which arrived with a cute, tiny jar of house-made pickles very welcome in this unevenly seasoned pileup. Look for the pickles to reappear in an appealing Cuban sandwich (they’re also available as a side). Polpettina’s Chef/Owner Michael Abruzese aims to use organic and locally raised produce wherever possible and his meats are antibiotic- and hormone-free.
Our visit was only a First Taste*, so we were unable to get into three pastas on Polpettina’s menu ($14), which were offered with Bolognese, tomato-basil, and vodka sauces—though there were far less basic picks on the specials board. Instead, we ordered a Grandma pizza slice and were disappointed. Though it represented only one of the three types of pies offered at Polpettina (the others were Neapolitan and Brooklyn), we felt this slice’s plasticky, yellow, low-moisture cheese let down an otherwise pleasant, crispy/airy crust. We’re looking forward to returning to Polpettina in hopes that the other pies are more successful.
If you’re picky about service and ambience, this bumptious place may not be for you. Its cramped 15 seats strive to be called “intimate,” paper plates are used interchangeably with ceramic bowls, its bathroom is accessed via a walk through the kitchen, and our entire dinner order landed on our small table at once. Polpettina’s decor telegraphs casual-yet-earnest culinary intent with raw boards, a vintage lard can, and carefully organized cookbooks. Abruzese is planning on doubling Polpettina’s size in the near future—a boon, since meals here are often accompanied by the sight of hungry people on the sidewalk waiting for your table. Understandably, you may want to take your paper bag of hot, cinnamon-sugar-dusted zeppole outside and yield your table.
*First Tastes are not critical reviews. We visited Polpettina only once, and so were unable to sample every area of the menu. This is merely an initial impression.
We love the idea of wine classes: you get all buzzed, and then rationalize it as self-improvement-slash- art-appreciation! This series at Bedford Post is especially attractive because it excuses getting drunk in the daytime. For reservations, please call (914) 234 – 7800, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Summer Wine Series at Bedford Post
Exotic Whites: Native Italian Varietals from Veneto to Sicily – July 9, 3:30 – 4:45pm, $65 per person – From the site: “With 20 distinct regions and over 350 indigenous grape varietals, Italy is the most diverse wine-producing country in the world. From garganega in Vento, to inzolia in Sicily, there is truly something for everyone.”
Discovering Bourbon: The Original American Spirit – July 16, 3:30 – 4:45pm, $60 per person – From the site: “The Bourbon enthusiast has more high-quality options today than ever before. After this class with our bourbon and whiskey specialist, you may never want a single malt again.”
The Chameleon Grape: Rieslings of the World – July 23, 3:30 – 4:45pm, $60 per person – “A long favorite of wine professionals because of its ease of pairing with food, Riesling is now produced all over the world.”
The New Cupcake in Town: Larchmont’s Sweet & Social
Oh, when will the tyranny of the cupcake ever end? It’s been ages since those old ladies on Sex and the City first wolfed a Magnolia cupcake (no doubt, to run off camera and hurl). Even their fetishized Cosmo eventually gave it up after a lingering death—yet these cupcake-a-terias keep on coming with more every year. The latest to join the girl-grub fray has been open less than three weeks; it’s Sweet & Social, a bright pink-and-white storefront at 1935A Palmer Avenue in Larchmont (914-630-4834). Their shtick is wide, delicious, black-and-white cookies made ever-so-girly by swapping black with pink. Also look for whoopie pies and a long menu of filled cupcakes, like OMG (Oh My Ganache—a take on the squiggle-topped Hostess icon); Face Time Key Lime (vanilla cake topped with lime cream cheese, Graham cracker crumbs, and candy lime fruit slice); and Black Tie (a Boston cream pie), all pictured here.