It was a beautiful summer night, love was in the air and I was determined to find it, so I turned to a friend for a last minute set-up. I wanted to dine under the moon with someone new and different. He suggested someone who’d just moved to the East Village with an extensive knowledge of Italian, homemade pastas and organic wild salmon.
When I arrived, my hostess shuffled me through a narrow dining room to a dark back alley and disappeared leaving me without so much as a menu or a waiter. What should’ve been a luminous moon hanging over my head was a menacing fire escape and the garden seemed suspiciously more like an alley cramped with strangers. With the heat of the kitchen exhaust blowing gently against my neck, I started to sweat this impulsive set-up. Maybe I needed was a glass of wine to help me relax and get to know Quartino better. My waiter whizzed right past me to another table. All dolled up in my new skirt and he wouldn’t even look up from his pad. I clearly wasn’t the only one on his mind.
I encouraged him to impress me with an intoxicating list of wines, but he only had one kind of merlot in the house. He left me with a generous carafe of red wine and a menu. I skimmed over a variety of organic greens sprinkled with nuts to get to the meat of things. He wrote of pizzas, ravioli, risotto, carbs, and more carbs. Where was the chicken, the fish, where was the beef? I couldn’t help but notice he wasn’t giving protein a fair shake. Then I remembered what drew me to him in the first place. But when I tried to order the wild salmon, he claimed all they were serving up for the evening was a bass. Teased by imaginary cuts of wild salmon, where was this wizard of the kitchen boasting of food he couldn’t bring to the table? I wasn’t wearing a short skirt for my health.
He brought me a warm delicate pizza that tasted suspiciously like the bread from the basket, toasted, sliced wafer thin, dressed in a thin disguise of tangy tomato sauce. But the meager droppings of an admittedly fresh mozzarella only lead me to wonder if there was some sort of dairy drought. Then came Sicilian tuna, which had apparently come by boat because it was drowning in a sea of oil. I didn’t know what to save first – the string beans or tuna. And what should’ve been the t’our de force was a bland bass, resting on a mere mole hill of unseasoned root vegetables.
I had to face the music. Quartino just wasn’t my kind of guy. But I was hard up for a good dessert, so I turned to an old friend to see what he was mixing up for the rest of the night. There he was – bright as a neon sign, always happy to see me. Tasti-D-Lite would satisfy my sweetest craving. I took him right there on the street corner, a rich O’Henry lavished in hot fudge sprinkled with well….good old colored sprinkles.
BEST QUALITY: ORGANIC
WORST QUALITY: SERVICE
CONCLUSION: A DISAPPOINTMENT
Quartino (Bottega Organica) — Organic Italian
11 Bleecker Street, at Elizabeth St., (212)529-5133