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Locanda Verde

I was back at Locanda Verde last week for a business lunch (previous review here). Despite my misgivings about the Ken Friedman décor and occasionally clueless service, Locanda Verde may be the best new casual restaurant of 2009.

Oh, and Andrew Carmellini has a way with chicken. More on that in a moment.

We started with Pumpkin Ravioli ($15; above left) and Gabagoul & Grana ($14; above right), the latter being a mafioso’s version of salume with with parmesan cheese.

Then came a Sheep’s Milk Ricotta ($11; above right) and an excellent side of Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($7; above right) with pancetta and pecorino.

I loved all of that, but the Fire-Roasted Garlic Chicken ($19; above) sent me over the edge. This was probably the best chicken I’ve had all year, perfectly seasoned, busting with flavor. The identical dish seems to be available at lunch or dinner for the same price, but at dinner they make you order the whole chicken for two. At lunch, you get a half-chicken for one, which was more than I could finish.

We were seated at one of those round tables in front that is so small, it seems like it belongs in an ice cream parlor. Our server did not seem to be well informed about the menu. My companion asked about a dish she saw at another table. He disappeared to check on it, and forgot to return.

The kitchen, where Andrew Carmellini rules, is as good as ever.

Locanda Verde (377 Greenwich Street at N. Moore Street, TriBeCa)

Food: **
Service: *
Ambiance: *
Overall: **

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