Did you know that Savoy's super awesome cheeseburger is only available till 6 pm? I didn't. It broke my heart. Octopus, Wife, and myself were aimlessly wandering Soho last night with two out-of-towners. We all got hungry around 6:15 and decided the best thing around for an easy, small dinner would be Peter Hoffman's cheeseburger. We walked in to Savoy at around 6:30, found five barstools together, and considered ourselves the luckiest people alive. A burger at the bar at Savoy is one of New York's great pleasures on the cheap. We walked up and declared our intention to take "these five stools and have four cheeseburgers and some vegetarian option." That's when I learned that the sandwich I had touted so much had been missed by 30 minutes.
Of course, just as you would have done in the face of such heartbreak, we decided to hightail it over to Lupa and grab some seats before it got later and they became unattainable. Lupa is, in my opinion, the best place for a quick, cheap bottle of wine and bowl of pasta in town (once you have gotten a seat) and definitely a place out-of-town guest should be taken. As luck would have it, the north end of the communal table was free, and the five of us planted ourselves for a small, early supper.
Our out-of-town friend had spent the day discussing wine with me and we had reached the point at which I suspected she liked lighter-bodied reds. To test/illustrate this assumption, I chose a rather young '03 Terra Borolo Dolcetto D'Alba. For twenty-seven bucks it was exactly right for the ensuing meal and she loved it.
First the big news: the Focaccia is back. After a foray into Pizza Bianca as the table bread, the Lupa team has gone back to the light, fluffy, rosemary and sea salt bread they had that was so exceptional at mopping up the awesome neon green Piazzano olive oil it is served with. The Pizza Bianca was great and I swing by Sullivan Street for it regularly, but the Focaccia simply holds more olive oil, and that olive oil kicks ass.
Having spent the day making and consuming a lot of potato pancakes at our long, leisurely brunch, I was neither in the mood for pasta, nor slow roasted meats, the things Mark Ladner and his boys really excel at on Sundays. So I took the easy way out. I got a verdura, a salad and two of the vegetable contorni.
First was the verdura Charred Radiccio. It was served with Saba. [Saba would be real balsamic vinegar, Aceto di Modena, if it had been put in varying casks of varying sizes and woods for varying numbers of years and then it passed the judgment of the proper consortium. As I am sure you can deduce, Saba is far cheaper than Aceto di Modena.] Then some croutons, some toasted hazelnuts and some pecorino were tossed in. It is bitter and sweet and tart all at the same time and even had a hint of truffle in it.
Second was the Punterreli Salad, a verbal special. It was described as a bitter green of Rome, with an aggressive dressing of anchovy, garlic, lemon, and some chilies. The word aggressive scared everyone, so I was the only person to order it. Then I encouraged everyone to taste it and it was decided the best dish of all those we had ordered. I considered the green itself more spicy then bitter, which made the addition of chili a very cool choice. I get anchovy/garlic dressing almost every time I see it and I would consider this the best one I have had this bitter greens season. Lively from the lemon and well-balanced between the remaining three flavors of garlic, olive oil, and anchovy.
The first of my two contorni was Brussel Sprouts. They had been deep fried in olive oil and had that awesome almost marijuana flavor that comes when the outer leaves scorch. The second was Braised Escarole. It was dressed with lemon and some vinegar. Both were simple, both green, both good.
For her entrée Wife had the market fish of the day, wild striped bass, which (we learned later) is on the consumer watch lists for being so full of pollutants as to not be consumable by humans. This frustrated her greatly, as she likes to avoid such things. Other then that, all in all it was an excellent meal on a not very hungry stomach. Man I love that place.