There’s nothing clandestine about the goings-on at The Garret East. Make your way through the well marked doors, and you’ll find the music pumping, the crowds bumping and everyone drinking, all in perfectly plain sight. But if — perhaps in a boozy search for the bathroom — you happen to stumble your way past an inconspicuous curtain, you’ll stumble upon a single, discreet buzzer on a wall, enigmatically demanding that you “Push For Food.”
Once granted admittance by a trim, clipboard-toting hostess, it might take a moment to adjust your eyes to the genteel, candlelit glow of dinnertable, New York’s first “reverse speakeasy”; an intimate, otherwise unadvertised restaurant, surreptitiously hidden in back of a dim and rowdy saloon. Comprising just 20 seats, arranged at a duo of tiny two-tops, a narrow, communal table or a high, galley kitchen-adjacent bar, the no-reservations eatery is manned by husband-and-wife team, Scott Tacinelli (formerly of Quality Italian, Park Avenue and Quality Meats) and Angie Rito (also a vet of Quality Italian as well as Torrisi Italian Specialties), whose top-selling Lasagna Bolo for two — saucy, garlic bread-topped, cheese-caramelized pinwheels — pleasantly perfume the room.
Similarly rustic, vaguely eccentric options like a plate of mussels, propped on wadded tinfoil and stuffed with pepperoni-inflected rice, further the illusion of having attended an informal soiree, in some culinarily capable friend’s kitchen. But the majority of the menu quickly betrays that this is a strictly professional effort; think a mosaic of translucent Scallop Crudo, pebbled with uni and chili breadcrumbs; a Caesar-inspired salad, made with wide, peppery leaves of Chrysanthemum; tissue-thin Eggplant Carpaccio, augmented with farro, spicy peanuts and fresh mint, and toothsome soldiers of marble rye, mounded with a melting, roughly-cut Tartare, fashioned from smoked short rib and spiked with horseradish (oh, and did we mention that you can add Kaluga Caviar to anything for a $50 surcharge?)
So let the crowds continue to unsuspectingly booze it out up front and migrate out for pizza afterwards. Dinnertable will just be our little secret.