Da Andrea's fabled warm octopus salad (click to sample)
When it opened nine years ago on Hudson Street in the West Village, Da Andrea was heralded as one of the city's best date spots: With a small candle-lit room, good cheap Italian food, and a BYOB policy that allowed you to wow a date with your wine knowledge, it was the essence of Romance. Rent increases closed the place a year ago, and its fans thought it was gone forever. Then up it popped on West 13th Street recently, smack dab in the middle of the New School/Parsons campus area, with a room four times the size of the original, and an instant clientele of students and their parents that maybe wasn't so romance-oriented.
Fork in the Road dropped by a few days ago to reassess Da Andrea.
jump the web chasm to find out how we liked it
The new premises in West 13th was once a Punjabi restaurant.
Though the room is large, it's been partitioned into several more-intimate areas, and candlelight still suffuses the premises. Our favorite dish--the warm octopus salad--remains intact, including chewy cephalopod tentacles, cubes of browned potato, capers, and a pair of sauces that meld with the other flavors magnificently.
Da Andrea's cozze in guazzetto al profumo di aglio con crostini
Another highlight of our meal was mussels in a white-wine and tomato broth, seasoned with plenty of garlic and hoisting a pair of long croutons. The mussels were fresh and well-cleaned, and the soup so compelling that we slurped down every last drop, finally upending the bowl into our mouths, as a quartet of elderly diners at the next table who seemed rather formally dressed for the venue looked on in horror. Fuck 'em, we thought, wiping our mouths on our sleeves.
Da Andrea's misnamed spaghetti alla chitarra con salsa alla Bolognese
While pastas are not as strong as the apps, they're voluminous, abundantly sauced, and--at $10.50 to $12.50--quite cheap, for this sort of restaurant. The only dish we didn't like was a pasta called cappellacci ("little hats")--a sort of ravioli shaped like the round priest's hat with a broad brim that Guido Sarducci used to wear on Saturday Night Live. The pasta covering was disappointingly gummy and tough, while the filling didn't have a hell of a lot of flavor. When we ordered the classic spaghetti alla chitara ("guitar-style spaghetti," referring to the shape of the guitar strings), it turned out to be a thick fresh fettuccine, while the sauce was ground meat in tomato sauce, with little of the cooked-in vegetable richness one might hope for in a Bolognese.
The wine list is reasonably priced, with lots of action in the $20 to $30 range, but the house wine, available in half liter and liter carafes, was fine with us, especially the red, which was a Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. 35 West 13th Street, 212-367-1979
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