San Carlo Osteria Piemonte Pushes Piedmontese Cuisine Into the Spotlight
Vitello tonnato: Thinly sliced veal with tuna sauce
All photos by Billy Lyons for the Village Voice
If the first image that comes to mind when you hear the words Italian food is a red and white checkered tablecloth set with chicken parmesan and pastas doused in red sauce, you're not alone. Authentic Piedmontese dishes, let alone entire restaurants dedicated to them, are difficult to find this side of the Atlantic, which is exactly why San Carlo Osteria Piemonte's (90 Thompson Street; 212-625-1212) Soho opening sticks out. Italy's diverse regional cuisine, outside Campania, has revealed itself in recent years, with restaurants like Sessanta (Sicilian) and All'onda (Venetian) demonstrating that New Yorkers were ready to experience everything the boot had to offer.
The fifty-seat eatery has subtle undertones reflective of its homeland, the northwestern region of Italy that borders France and Switzerland. Here you'll find food showcasing the area's multifaceted culinary culture, all of it residing within a decidedly refined atmosphere. Outside the entranceway, a brass bull engraved in the sidewalk greets guests with a Piedmontese symbol for good luck; inside, the dining room is planning to feature an art installation depicting Turin’s Piazza San Carlo — the inspiration for the restaurant's name.
"In Italy, we say kilometer zero. Everywhere you go, you can find something good," says CEO Carlo Rolle, a Turin native who dreamed of opening a restaurant in Soho. Local is the only kind of source in Italy, which is why Rolle and chef Riccardo Zebro spared no expense in making sure the dishes on their menu could just as easily be found in Turin, Cuneo, or Biella. Grass-fed Piedmontese beef, perhaps the region's best-known export, comes direct from Pat LaFrieda's ranches in Montana, the only place allowed to raise and distribute the certified product in the United States. The restaurant is also working with Eataly to ensure that ingredients like Castelmagno cheese are always in stock.
Guests seeking to familiarize themselves more fully with Piedmontese offerings will find the region's love of anchovies well represented — the fish was introduced there so that residents could get affordable salt. There's also a fritto misto (made with sweetbreads, asparagus, and frog legs), among other lightly fried delicacies to choose from. The menu is made up of small bites followed by a traditional antipasti and first and second courses. Right now the restaurant serves only dinner, but it plans to debut a lunch and brunch menu in the coming weeks.
"I would like that when people go away, they can say, 'Oh, nice. Italian is not only spaghetti. It's not only meatballs. It's not only pizza,' " says Rolle.
The six-seat bar is also offering guests a chance to acclimate themselves to the region's infamous Barolo and Barbaresco vineyards by offering 10 wines by the glass as well as nearly 150 bottles. Spirits and cocktails — such as the Milano Torino (a riff on the negroni) and the French aperitif pastis — will round out the drink list.
Get a first look at San Carlo Osteria Piemonte right here:
Tonno di Coniglio: Rabbit marinated in olive oil
Risotto with Castelmagno cheese and toasted hazelnuts
Gnochhi with Piedmont cheese sauce, hazelnuts
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