Imagine your friend's refined, 58-year-old mom who doesn't color her hair and has an established position as a museum administrator. She wears linens and gray things that aren't designer name but are made of nice materials, and mostly ignores trends while still having both quirks and some certain sense of classic cool.
Via Carota is kind of like the New York restaurant version of that.
In a scene filled with loud, ball-so-hard restaurants like Dirty French and Carbone and even Upland, Via Carota is a pretty quiet newcomer. They haven't even posted their menu online! How blasé.
That's not to say the place is somehow super quiet or under the radar. After all, it's from the people behind the perpetually packed Buvette, has some serious real estate on a busy West Village street, and thanks to a no-reservation policy, you can expect there will typically be a wait. Fortunately, there's a nice bar to wait at with a bitter Italian cocktail.
We appreciate that Via Carota doesn't pander - you won't find sea urchin in any of the pastas. Kind of a relief, to be honest. But the food? It didn't quite blow us away. Your meal will probably consist of a few shared small-to-medium sized plates, and in our experience, they're a somewhat mixed bag. The pastas are solid, and so are some of the seafood dishes and vegetables, but in the West Village, where cute Italian restaurants are on pretty much every block, they don't really stand out. Via Carota's signature dish is the "svizzerina," or chopped steak, which is, depending on how you look at it, a bunless burger or a steak tartare that ended up in the frying pan. Like the restaurant, it's understated and a little different, but a few steps shy of being really excellent.
A bitter salad of radicchio, pine nuts, and currants. We liked it.
Little bits of acorn squash, mixed up with a smoky mozzarella-style cheese. Enjoyable, provided you like smoky things.
Chilled Leeks With Bottarga
Although they were advertised as such, it's a surprise that the leeks are pretty much ice cold. We found ourselves wondering if they wouldn't taste better at room temperature.
The "chopped steak" is like if you put steak tartare in a frying pan. Or it's a bunless burger, perhaps. Will you like this? If you're the kind of person who orders a burger for the MEAT, you likely will. If you really do it for the cheese and bun (*ahem*), this might be the time you realize this reality.
A roasted octopus dish with olives. Nicely cooked and flavorful.
The salt-roasted shrimp aren't too memorable, and even a little mealy. We'd skip next time.
The gnocchi comes with a gorgonzola sauce and it's pretty glorious.
Via Carota tends to have a pasta special, and they were some of the most attractive options on our visits. We had an excellent papardelle with butter and prosciutto, and more recently they've been doing a black truffle pasta that's been getting positive reviews.