The first time you walk into Elina’s in West Town you might think to yourself, “I could become a regular here.” You’ll be escorted through the cozy, BYOB spot to the crooning of Frank Sinatra. The short menu has handmade pastas and comforting Italian American dishes like chicken parmesan. There are white tablecloths, but you’d feel equally comfortable in jeans or a dress.

But before you claim your favorite barstool,  you should know that the food at Elina’s is pretty disappointing.

Elina’s review image

photo credit: Garrett Sweet

The intimate space has only 28 seats, and tables are so close together you will hear exactly what the couple next to you is looking for in a third. Friendly servers will chill the wine you brought (there’s a $10 corkage fee), and present you with a complimentary spread of garlic and pizza breads, salumi, and pickled eggplant. It’s a nice touch, and you might feel a little guilty upon noticing that the bread is unpleasantly oily.

Unfortunately, the short selection of handmade pastas continue to underwhelm, like a mushy fusilli in bland white bolognese, and a salty penne and prosciutto in a parmesan sauce that congeals the instant it hits the table. Salads are served with cartoonishly large croutons that are impractical to eat. And the golden chicken parmesan topped with bubbly caramelized cheese looks like a contestant on America’s Next Top Parms, but is so tough it threatened to meet us outside after dinner.

Some dishes on the short menu are good, like shrimp cocktail that comes with tender plump shrimp, and sweet cocktail sauce and creamy dijonnaise that perfectly complements the briny shellfish. A crispy mozzarella sandwich is greasy in the best way possible, making it the grilled cheese of our hungover dreams. And the rigatoni alla vodka’s sauce has a nice balance of cream and acid.

But none of the above is worth going out of your way for, which makes Elina’s a spot you end up at versus a place you seek out. But if you do find yourself here, it’s a good time. The staff are friendly, and the service is attentive without being obtrusive. And the small space is pleasant enough to make you fine with finishing a bottle of pinot with anyone who doesn’t care that cutting the chicken parmesan might register on the Richter scale. And hey, who knows, maybe they’ll become regulars here after all.

Food Rundown

Elina’s review image

photo credit: Garrett Sweet.

Complimentary Snacks

Free stuff is nice, and we appreciate that every meal at Elina’s starts off with two types of complimentary bread (garlic and pizza), salami, and pickled eggplant. Is the garlic bread greasy and pizza bread underdone? Yes. Do we care? Not really.

Shrimp Cocktail

Sure it’s just a shrimp cocktail, but it’s a damn good one, with six perfectly cooked shrimp. Order this.

Elina’s review image

photo credit: Garrett Sweet

Mozzarella En Carozza

This appetizer is basically a deep fried grilled cheese, and is delicious the way buttery fried bread and melty cheese should be. It’s also very filling, so consider ordering this as your entree.

Elina’s review image

photo credit: Garret Sweet

Chicken Parmesan

The golden chicken parmesan looks like a team of food stylists got together and generated the platonic ideal of this dish. But the overcooked meat is tough and dry, and doesn’t come with enough sauce.

Elina’s review image

photo credit: Garrett Sweet

RIgatoni Alla Vodka

This is the pasta you should order. It’s consistently al dente, and the creamy sauce clings nicely to the rigatoni.

Penne And Prosciutto

The penne is tossed in parmesan sauce with peas and pieces of prosciutto. The first bite is salty, and then the cheese sauce becomes grainy and congealed.

Fusilli Bolognese

If you’ve ever eaten a Lipton noodle packet then you know exactly what this overcooked pasta tastes like—salty and processed.

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