NYCReview

Porsena image

Porsena

This spot is Permanently Closed.

PastaItalian

East Village

$$$$Perfect For:Dining SoloEating At The Bar

This is a pasta-obsessed city, and I am a pasta-obsessed person. It’s pretty much my go-to order at any restaurant I visit, and luckily, every f*cking restaurant that I visit has pasta on the menu these days. Steakhouse? Have some bone marrow orecchiette. New American restaurant? What’s more new and American than garganelli? Scandanavian spot? Here’s some reindeer ravioli, served cold. We are truly living in wonderful times.

Pasta hasn’t always been this prolific, though. Back in 2010 when Porsena first opened, it was a relatively unique idea that a chef who was best known for a tiny East Village porchetta sandwich restaurant would open a new establishment entirely devoted to Italian noodles. Up to that point, most “pasta” restaurants also had “rasta” somewhere in the name. Rhyming = marketing, by the way.

We’ve always loved Porsena, and in fairness, should probably explain that this is technically a restaurant that serves Tuscan food - not just carbohydrates in sauce. But the pasta is what you should come for. For as long as we’ve been eating here, we can’t remember a single starchy bowl that we haven’t absolutely loved. In every instance, the noodles are cooked perfectly al dente, the sauces are flavorful and interesting, and the portion sizes are an ideal single serving. That was the case when we first reviewed it in 2011, and that’s still the case today.

What you aren’t coming to Porsena for is ambiance. The restaurant is basically brick walls and some tables. But that’s not to say there isn’t any charm. The staff is relaxed and super friendly, and it’s the perfect place for dining solo or catching up with some friends in a place that isn’t so loud you can’t hear each other. The food is good, the wine is good, and the East Village location is central and convenient.

The downside? Porsena is expensive. Each bowl of good stuff costs at least $20, and you’re gonna need a few of them. That means you can end up dropping some serious dollar on a meal that mostly consists of pasta. Worth it? That probably depends on how happy you are with our current state of noodle affairs. Thanks, Obama.

Food Rundown

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Escarole Salad

On paper, nothing about this salad screams “order me”, but you should, thanks mostly to the hot anchovy dressing. Get them greens.
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Foie Gras Parfait

That is a jar of foie gras with “spicy granola” on it. Pretty sure that things like this are exactly what brought the Roman Empire to its end, but hell, let’s go out with a bang.

Anneloni with Spicy Lamb Sausage

There will almost always be some version of this dish on Porsena’s menu, and it’s a must order. Anything with spicy lamb sausage from this menu needs to be in front of you.
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Maccheroni with Duck Ragu

See this? You want this. Even if you’re less than enthusiastic about duck. You want it.
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Ricotta Ravioli with Brown Butter & Sage

We’re always down for some pasta with brown butter, and we can get down with this ravioli. A bit pricey when you realize that this costs nearly $22, but delicious nonetheless.

FOOD RUNDOWN

Suggested Reading

Frank image

Frank

A legendary East Village Italian restaurant that we have decided we can now only visit when nobody else will be eating there. Like at 3pm on a Tuesday.

Il Posto Accanto image

Il Posto Accanto in the East Village is home to some of the best meatballs and pastas in town. Plus, it has a great wine list and open air dining.

Lavagna image

Even though it might not be the coolest of the East Village Italian restaurants, Lavagna is right up there with the best.

Post image

Post is an American restaurant in Alphabet City with lots of vegan options. It's a must-visit for biscuit lovers.

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