I recently heard someone ask out loud, completely earnestly: "So, what is the hottest Italian restaurant in New York?"
Was this person Stefon from Saturday Night Live? No. Does this person imagine their life as narrated by a Sex And The City character? Probably. Either way, the people - or at least one very specific leather pants-wearing person -demand to know where it's cool to eat Italian food these days. So we're here to find out.
When we first heard about Sessanta, we Googled it and discovered an Upper West Side condo building of the same name. But upon further inspection, Sessanta seemed prime for potential "hot Italian restaurant" status.
Let's evaluate the details.
Sessanta has plenty going for it, and shares some traits with various other restaurants that people get excited about. Much like Santina, the food is Sicilian Italian, which means minimal amounts of red sauce, plenty of seafood, and dishes served on bright, colorful plates. The restaurant is owned by the owner of Lure Fish Bar, and actually looks and feels a bit like the perennially popular Lure, with dark wood paneling that makes you feel like you're on a boat. It's also located in a Soho hotel, 60 Thompson, in the space once occupied by Kittichai. Kittichai was good, and people like restaurants in hip hotels. As we said, this place has plenty going for it.
So how does the sum of those parts turn out? Pretty good. It's not a must-visit, but it's a pleasant addition. Most of the food - with a few off exception - is tasty. The space is nice - dark and a little sceney without feeling like a club in Meatpacking. It wouldn't make for a terrible date, but we'd rather come here with a group and sit in one of the big booths.
Is it ever going to be the hottest restaurant around? Probably not, as much as it might like to be. That said, leather pants lady would also probably have a pretty good time here.
The octopus comes with couscous and apricots, which is a nice twist from the usual. You want this.
If a tuna crudo's on the menu, there's a good chance we're going to order it. This one's a little off - the big chunks of tuna mixed with caperberries and lime just didn't balance quite right.
A simple green salad with prosciutto, walnuts, and pecorino cheese. A good order.
We almost didn't order this, but thank god we did. It's essentially a bowl of grains, done up like risotto and mixed with corn and garlic, and then topped with what looks like popcorn. It's the best thing we ate here.
This pasta comes with a very unusual selection of ingredients: fennel, sicilian anchovies, pine nuts, golden raisins, saffron. We enjoyed a few bites, but ultimately wouldn't eat raisins and fried anchovies in our pasta again.
A crispy, flavorful, very good piece of fish simply done up with tomatoes and almonds.
A solid roast chicken with peppers, lentils, and chili oil. If you're debating fish or chicken, go fish.