For a little while now, this empty restaurant area sat boarded-up near where I work in Midtown NYC. Little did I know it’d be the new home for Patrizia’s of Brooklyn…in Manhattan! And it’s a welcome addition, because there aren’t too many competitors in the area. You’ve got House Of Lasagna, Piccolo Cafe and Vezzo Thin Crust Pizza – all noteworthy in their own ways, but nothing assertively dominant (except Piccolo’s pasta game). Midtown is always a tough sell for restaurants (either too expensive, or too crowded), which is the perfect situational opportunity for a family-style establishment much like Patrizia’s to step into.
There’s a roomy outdoor area for days when it isn’t 90-something degrees out, and even more room indoors. Aside from a large dining/bar area, there’s also a quaint little upstairs with a VIP-like table that overlooks the main dining room. Wine bottles and pasta boxes line the walls, bringing an Italian market feel to the otherwise yellow-and-blue painted interior. Patrizia’s wants you to feel at home, and that’s where the food comes in.
You will leave Patrizia’s very full. That I can promise. Portions are sharable, but hearty in nature. Then again, if you get something like the Calamari Toscana, you won’t want to share – and that’s where issues can arise. Can you really be a family establishment when you make a dish so tasty that it could tear the very fabric of family apart?! There’s something sacred about “the last bite,” so God help any inner-clan rivalries that are settled over the last fried calamari ring.
That said, Patrizia’s comes across in a very diplomatic nature, featuring a menu that bounces around most Italian favorites. Seafood is abundant, found in most entrees/appetizers, but there’s also brick-oven pizzas, plenty of pasta, and American-Italian favorites like all the Parmigianas, Marsalas, and Amatricianas you could want. Feel free to order at will, because there’s nothing here I’d really tell you to steer clear of. The pizzas come out warm and vibrantly aromatic, the seafood is cooked and prepared with careful attention, and the pasta is oh-so delicious. Go family style, so you can sample a bit of everything – you can’t go wrong with much.
Here’s the rundown of goodies we were served, starting with appetizers and ending with a nap-inducing dessert plate:
Burrata All’ Amalfitana (fresh mozzarella stuffed with creamy cheese): When a restaurant’s first dish makes your eyes light up, it’s a good sign. As I cut into the creamy cheese pocket, an even smoother center poured out. Each bite was a fresh blast of salty, crisp burrata goodness, textured wonderfully with a supple softness. There was also oil drizzled on top to complement, along with a little arugula to taste.
Eggplant Parmigiana: Simple, yet effective. We were all served a large slice of breaded eggplant, topped with sauce and mozzarella. The eggplant wasn’t oily or drab, Patrizia’s red sauce supplied a nice tang, and some melty mozzarella drove home the parmigiana feel. Good stuff in my book.
“The Star” Margherita Pizza (tomatoes, mozzarella and basil): Patrizia’s brick oven game is on point, and their “Star” pizzas are just showing off. The corners are crimped to create crusty points for each slice, which fold over and encase a little cheesy surprise. The dough comes out crisp, fresh basil adds some greenery, and once again, there’s that tangy sauce to wrap it all together. As far as brick oven pizzas goes, Patrizia’s can hang with the big boys.
Baked Clams: Pretty standard stuff. A baked breading tops a handful of clams, and there’s lemon to taste. Given how good everything else was, the Baked Clams wouldn’t be my go-to, but still a stellar order for those of you who love such crustacean presentations.
Calamari Toscana (fried calamari in a cherry peppers spicy sauce): I could have eaten this and only this for the entire meal. Admittedly, I’m a fried calamari fiend – but the cherry peppers spicy sauce hits your eye like a big pizza-pie, and it’s true amore. A perfect bite gets one ring of golden squid, some cherry pepper for sweetness, and a dollop of sauce. UGH. If you like fried calamari, I DARE you to find a better version anywhere else.
Grilled Baby Polpo Alla Fuorigrotta (grilled baby octopus): Coming into lunch, I never sampled grilled octopus. Not that I avoided it, but the opportunity was just never right. So, let me defer to one of my guest’s reactions – “That’s the best way to try grilled octopus, because you’re not going to find a better preparation many other places.” She was right. Tender, charred baby octopus in oil and with cherry tomatoes. Nothing chewy or rubbery. The suckers on each tentacle provided a crunch in each bite, and made me realize what I’d been missing.
Shrimp Allo Scoglio (shrimp in garlic, olive oil and grape tomatoes): Huge, head-on shrimp that come out ready to be peeled and devoured. They take a little work, but showcase proper seafood technique. Again, no chewiness, just a meaty bite of shrimp kissed with oil and garlic. Patrizia’s lets their ingredients shine, and never over-sauces or reduces that integrity of components.
Fioretti Alla Boscaiola (stuffed pasta in a mushroom, prosciutto cream sauce): For a pasta lover, this is a must. You get what are essentially light little pasta pouches filled with a rich, creamy cheese filling, topped with a decadent pink sauce. Prosciutto brings that greasy kick to the mix that amps flavor profiles, but the pasta here is Patrizia’s star (well, aside from its star pizza). The fioretti are cooked to perfection, to the point where we had to stop the waiter from removing the plate twice because no one could let a single bite go to waste.
Skirt Steak With Broccoli Rabe: Juicy steak, grill marks and a balsamic drizzle – cooked on the outside, but still pink enough in the middle. Was I surprised that Patrizia’s knew how to handle their meat? Not after everything else showed such care.
Pollo Scarpariello (boneless chicken pieces with mushrooms, peppers, garlic and oil): We had the same reaction to the baked clams here – there’s nothing wrong with the Pollo Scarpariello, but compared to everything else, we never came back for more bites of this chicken dish. Then again, maybe that’s unfair because the Fioretti Alla Boscaiola was still on the table, but I’d find myself ordering almost everything else we tried over the Pollo Scarpariello (unless you’re a chicken person).
Dessert Platter (tiramisu, cheesecake, dough stuffed with Nutella): With eager eyes and unbuttoned pants, we watched our waiter drop a powder-sugar topped dessert plate in front of us. We all joked and agreed we had to sample just a taste of everything, you know, to be polite. But one bite of the Nutella stuffed dough and it was game over. Before long, the blissful mini dessert calzone was gone, and I was wolfing down forkfulls of moist cheesecake (one lemon ricotta I believe, the other more traditional). And the Tiramisu? Still good. Before long, the entire plate was polished off, and shame began to sink in.
So does Patrizia’s pass Nonna’s test? Good Italian starts with a flavorful sauce, and in that regard, Patrizia’s begins every dish with a marinara advantage. Simple plates of seafood and olive oil are herbed daintily, and prepared so that the underwater delicacies shine. Nothing is masked here. If you order steak, you’re going to get a choice cut of meat. If you sling up a pizza, a crispy pie will deliver what you’re craving. Go with pasta, and you’ll be fill with starchy, comforting goodness.
Listen, I don’t take my Italian grub lightly – it’s the only food I CRAVE, and DEMAND high quality from – so be proud Patrizia’s, because you won me over in a single visit. Now let me go sleep off this food coma so I can come back for dinner…