Frank DeCarlo built his kitchen with his bare hands, and his wood-fired ovens brick-by-brick. At Peasant (194 Elizabeth Street; 212-965-9511),his rustic Nolita restaurant going 15 years strong, the seasoned chef and a small crew cook a lineup of traditional — and, in many cases, ancient — Italian recipes learned through his time spent cooking throughout the country. From his roiling furnace and rotisserie, he produces thin crust pizzas topped with spicy peppers and chile-spiked salami and lasagnas layered with tomato-braised goat or shredded rabbit and béchamel, while his burners are reserved for classics like risottos served in wide, shallow dishes.
Accoutrements for the wondrously soupy and creamy grains change seasonally. Sometimes they hold porcini mushrooms, sometimes asparagus; sometimes peas and shrimp. Our favorite version is DeCarlo’s squid ink risotto, the black rice dotted with plump whole cuttlefish. Red and yellow cherry tomatoes, basil, and edible flowers add pops of color and bright, fresh flavor to the dish’s earthy richness. Peasant’s wood-fired items, like head-on squab and crisp-skinned suckling pigs with potatoes simmered in milk, are arguably its biggest draw, but the risottos — offered in portions large enough to share — illustrate why the restaurant hasn’t missed a step.
In honor of our Best of New York City issue (available now!), the Village Voice has been combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10. To read about previous dishes, browse our 100 Favorite Dishes page.