Restaurant Review, New York City: ‘inoteca

This Lower East Side corner is particularly warm and inviting due to a few establishments that have a common theme-large, open windows with seating and tables spilling out onto the sidewalks, creating almost a bit of a small town feel.  My favorite piece of this Lower East Side corner is a place called ‘inoteca.  Being a West Villager, I had grown fond of a place on Bedford called ‘ino, but always wished it were a little bigger.  It was more of a lunch spot to grab a panini during an afternoon stroll in the neighborhood.  ‘inoteca, however, has risen to the challenge of becoming a real restaurant.  Like its neighbors, ‘inoteca shares the big, open window policy which allows for an open and airy feeling, which is quite refreshing on mild evenings.  A bit noisy at first, the volume never really grew to a point where I couldn’t hear the person across from me.  In fact, I stopped noticing the yapping level after a few minutes.

The first thing I noticed when I sat down were the 600 bottles of wine surrounding the room.  I thought I had died and gone to Italian wine heaven. 

The restaurant specials included some seasonal favorites of mine-being the end of the summer those included tomatoes and corn.  I tried a tomato, corn and string bean salad and a stuffed tomato to start, along with a 7-piece cheese plate.  The salad was incredibly fresh and full of simple ingredients that brought out the flavors of the crisp veggies.  The stuffed tomato had a breadcrumb top and sat in a bath of tomato broth that had just the right kick and served as a great dip for the bread.  The Formaggi (cheese) menu is extensive and I did not taste one cheese that I didn’t enjoy.  My favorite was definitely the Taleggio as it reminds me of my other favorite Italian cheese giant-Parmeggiano Reggiano. 

The big highlight of the dinner for me was the polpette-meatballs.  These were no ordinary meatballs.  The meat mix was a combination of sirloin, veal and pork but had this taste that I couldn’t figure out at first but after a few more bites realized what it was…the sauce covering the polpette was a sublime and light tomato sauce with grated orange zest on top.  The orange zest blended beautifully with the other ingredients and gave these meatballs a unique taste that will definitely send me back for more.

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