Field Notes: Sole di Capri
Patrons crowd by the door during the lunchtime rush at Sole di Capri (165 Church Street, 212-513-1113), a petite Italian restaurant run by Ecuador-born, Piedmont-raised and trained chef Eddy Erazo. With gentle prices (the menu tops out at $16), it's a boon for the Tribeca neighborhood where a cheap meal is hard to find (and don't even get us started on the dearth of good men). Tucked into a rather dull stretch of Church Street, the dining room sees a steady stream of customers during daytime hours thanks to the numerous government and office buildings in the area. Dinner is a more subdued affair; it's also the only time the chef offers generous steak and daily fish main courses.
Flavorful soups make for a promising start, but we're particular to the grilled vegetable antipasto, a melange of market vegetables topped with thick slabs of house-made mozzarella. If you ask nicely, they'll throw a few slices of prosciutto in the mix. On a recent visit we were delighted to find charred brussels sprouts, broccoli, eggplant, peas, and peppers.
The Southern-leaning dishes that come out of Erazo's razor-thin kitchen (it occupies a bus stop-sized portion of the room) are refreshingly straightforward, and it's hard not to be charmed by the colorful tiles that decorate the tight dining quarters. The cooking is as rustic as the surroundings -- pastas are sturdy and well-sauced, and even a timid order of grilled chicken breast with salad is seasoned well; the pounded chicken breast juicy with a light char. A plate of bucatini all'amatriciana glistens, slicked with pork fat from rendered guanciale. Not only are the tube-shaped noodles totally tubular, but they could downright drive a man to alliteration.
Desserts also fall to Erazo, who bakes crunchy cookies for dipping into espresso and traditional Italian desserts like the bulgur wheat and ricotta cake called pastiera. Studded with candied orange, the cake is denser than ricotta cheesecake, with a filling whose flavor is reminiscent of cannoli thanks to the sugared fruit. We also sampled a similar cake with a custard-like pastry cream interior. Both cakes, served with fresh blackberry compote and thickened sweet cream, are worth the trip alone. But then you'd miss out on those pastas.
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