QUICK CHEAT SHEET:
Start with – Ricotta cavatelli
Eat – Broiled tile fish
Side – Butter beans and escarole
Finish with – Sorbet trio
Amidst the continuous barrage of elephantine-sized restaurants, The Little Owl has quietly moved onto the restaurant scene, modestly emerging as an overnight neighborhood success. After helming the kitchen at The Harrison and now defunct Pace
(currently home to Mr. Chow Tribeca), chef Joey Campanaro & partner
Gabriel Stulman have down-sized to decidedly more quaint quarters (32 seats) to put on a two man show. Cradled on the breezy Greenwich Village corner of Bedford & Grove, The Little Owl is a charming and rustic cafe, fashioned of exposed brick wall, wine-colored banquettes, wood tables, mix-and-match plates, and two walls of white-framed windows with glorious street views.
In a dog-eat-dog city, The Little Owl somehow succeeds in making make diners feel more like guests than orders (they’ll even cook off the menu). It’s the simple privilege of snagging a seat at one of only nine tables (32 seats), where you can watch Joey cook through the kitchen window as Gabriel does everything from bus tables to check bags.
Yet, what already seems to be attracting regulars to the month-old eatery, is the dining experience more than the seasonally inspired American fare itself – soft shell crab, ramps & wild dandelions – which is mostly marvelous, but sometimes
inconsistent. The tasty gravy meatball sliders, a bite-sized & particularly civilized twist on a meatball sandwich, are the perfect beginning to a warm Little Owl evening. Tucked into freshly baked garlic rolls, these fluffy beef-pork-veal meatballs come tucked into freshly-baked garlic rolls, the fluffly beef-pork-veal meatballs come dressed up with tomato gravy & a touch of melted pecorino. What seemed like a carelessly seared hamachi – overcooked on the outside & undercooked on the inside – oddly works, but only when eaten in the same forkful with the accompanying fried onions & crunchy cabbage & carrot slaw in a tarragon honey mustard dressing.
I happily settled into a bowl of exceptionally fresh ricotta cavatelli, skimming a shallow but flavorful tomato broth, then
dotted with thick chunks of savory bacon and fava beans. My favorite was the broiled tile fish, a rare menu find, smothered in a sublime pesto vinaigrette & served on a fresh-off-the-corn stalk salad with cherry tomatoes – summer on a plate.
We ended with a trio of sorbets (courtesy of Il Laboratorio del Gelato), a colorful palate of a refreshing lemon basil, zesty cherry and tangerine flavors. While I cooed over the chocolate gelato that rode a warm brownie cake out of the kitchen, the cake itself, suffered from too much time in the oven. You might consider skipping dessert and taking a summer stroll over to Milk & Cookies for a warm make-your-own ice cream sandwich. Nonetheless, I’d be back to dabble in the ever-changing menu & take in the Village view.
Until we eat again,
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