Abboccato-Finally, a Restaurant in Midtown That Puts Some Lovin’ in Its Food

I don’t usually stumble when I’m asked for restaurant recommendations, but this question always stymies me: “I need a spot in Midtown that’s not too pricey but will still wow me (or, at least, the person I’m trying to impress) with its food.” In search of an answer, I decided to give Abboccato’s rustic, Italian-style menu a try. They have a little something for everyone, ranging from chiccetti (small plates), antipasti, primi, secondi and contorni. Chef James Botsacos even gives a shout out to his Nonna on his menu – as most good chefs should – with her Polpetti (meatballs).

My date and I started with a few chiccetti. First was the Polpetti – golf ball-size meatballs that would please tender meatball-loving aficionados as well as the tougher, more firm meatball fans. Next was the Calamari alla Napoletana, small rings of braised calamari stewed with tomatoes and finished with green olives. Our third choice was the Arancini, or fried risotto balls. As their name suggests, they were the size of a “little orange,” and came with some flash-fried shiitake mushrooms and fried parsley on top – a well executed Arancini. We followed the chiccetti by splitting the Ricotta Cavatelli, which was a simple, well-seasoned pasta dish with broccoli rabe and housemade pecorino sausage. This was a good pasta dish to share. Note: all pastas are available as half portions.

For our main course, my date had the Spaghettini “Cacio e Pepe,” a light spaghetti tossed with pecorino cheese, black pepper and finished with a little butter. I chose the Pan Roasted Skate served with Prawns, Manila Clams, Mussels, Fennel and Potato. It was served in a light saffron herb broth and the fish was cooked to perfection. This entrée kept me from getting bored with the same old bite. As a small nibble on the side, we ordered the potato croquettes filled with potato, cheese and speck (an Italian ham).

Dessert appeared to be out of the question until we came across the Crema Frita. Translated literally as “fried cream,” this was a piece of custard with a crisp coating served with chocolate semifreddo, whipped cream and a little passion fruit pool on the bottom of the bowl. Even when you think you can’t possibly find room for one more bite, get this dessert – please trust me. It will be the wow factor you’re looking for to end a perfect evening.

What's Fresh from @RachaelRay

Rachael Ray