Friday, 2 March 2007

The best trattoria in Manhattan

If you know me well, you've been to Il Bagatto with me. Located at 192 East 2nd Street in the East Village, this wonderful little trattoria is going on 12 years - making it a pioneer in what was once a fairly gritty neighborhood. The owners, husband Julio and wife Bea, have created a haven - the perfect communal Italian kitchen for their ever-expanding extended family of clientele. Bea is from Rome, and the food is therefore not surprisingly Roman and Roman inspired. Indeed, all of the food is inspired. The basic menu consists of antipasti, pasta, and secondi which are excellent. However, the real treats at Bagatto are in the specials, 4 antipasti, 3 pasta, and 3 secondi that are created fresh by Bea every day. Salads are always incredibly fresh and flavorful. Cheeses and salumi are imported from Italy, or homemade. The grilled calamari is amazingly delicate. Pastas sauced with homemade ragus, handmade pastas with seafood, and the Sunday lasagna that is invariably sold out by 7:30 pm are mouth-watering. Simple grilled fish, spicy pork chops, saltimboca a la Romana for secondi couldn't be better. And the dessert list provides too many options, all of which are wonderful. Add to this an all-Italian wine list that is fairly-priced and includes some remarkable, rare selections (and the bonus of an even more extensive wine list availablefrom the enoteca next-door, Il Posto Accanto, also owned by Julio and Bea), and you have the perfect site for a weekly meal, particularly because the prices are incredibly reasonable.

The atmosphere is lively on any night, rising to chaotic on Fridays and Saturdays. The decor is warm and inviting, romantic enough for a serious date while fun enough for a first date or a casual dinner. There is an unbelievably dedicated following of regulars who all seem to know one another because they actually do know each other due to Julio and Bea's incredible ability to introduce everyone to everyone. Reservations are a must, particularly Fridays and Saturdays, though prepare to wait those nights even with a reservation. Fortunately, the bar downstairs is well-stocked and the bar tenders are able and extremely friendly. This place is the best.

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