First, there was Joseph Leonard, then Jeffrey’s Grocery followed by Fedora. In just three years, Gabriel Stulman has built himself a tremendously popular restaurant empire in the West Village. But his latest venture, Perla, which debuted two months ago, just might be his finest effort to date. The chef is Michael Toscano, who first got his start at Babbo, then moved on to man the kitchen at Manzo’s, the meat-centric restaurant inside Eataly.
Perla is Michael Toscano’s coming out party and he manages to make quite an impression at this casual Italian with seriously good and often innovative cooking. There’s an outstanding riff on vitello tonnato, a beautiful saba-glazed duck with spring peas and pancetta, and a guinea hen with mushrooms, asparagus and sauce made from foie gras dust. But one of the best dishes on the menu happens to be a bar bite, which is a very good thing because Perla doesn’t take reservations and they’re not easy to come by lately. So if you can’t snag a table, you can still negotiate your way to the bar for the Potato Chips All’amatriciana.
I’m not a potato chip person by nature, but these aren’t your typical brand of potato chip. They’re cut paper thin, fried to a perfect golden crisp, then seasoned with amatriciana powder. What’s amatriciana powder you ask? An ingenious mix of guanciale, powdered tomato, onion, chile and garlic. The final touch is a dusting of fresh grated cheese and the result is tangy, crunchy, and garlicky with a chile kick. I think they should bag these puppies and sell them.
Address: 24 Minetta Lane, off Sixth Ave.