Note: Click here for a later visit, when we had the Feast of the Seven Fishes.
In a poor economy, restaurateurs are opening second branches of concepts that have already proved successful across town—this being a much safer bet, as consumers seek comfort in names they already know.
Thus it is, that the modestly successful Bar Stuzzichini in the Flatiron District, begat Stuzzicheria in Tribeca, which opened about a month ago at the corner of Church and Walker Streets. The space has tall picture windows on two sides, offering a panoramic view of . . . the old AT&T building.
The new place is considerably smaller than Bar Stuzzichini, and so is the menu. It features only about half as many of the small plates, or stuzzichini, as its predecessor. (There’s also a handful of salads, pastas, entrées, and so forth.) I sampled four of the stuzzichini, on two different visits. They are well made, but the chef offers only the safest choices—minor tweaks on very familiar items.
The Pane Panelle Sliders ($10; above left) were the most intriguing item I tried. Made with Sicilian chickpea fritters, ricotta, and caciocavella, on warm brioche rolls, they exceed expectations, even without meat. Bufala Mozzarella ($6; above right), imported from Naples, comes with just a touch of olive oil, but it’s served colder than I’d like (or am used to).
Salume Finochietta ($7; above left), or dried pork & fennel sausage, has a nice spicy tang, but you can find the same in many an Italian restaurant. So too the Polpette Pomodoro ($7; above right), a hearty meatball dish.
Wine is served by the quartino, at about the price ($11–16) many places would charge for just one glass. I was pleased to enjoy again the same Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva we had at Bar Stuzzichini last year.
Right now, the menu has the distinct feel of a work in progress, of a chef unwilling to take chances. The space could also work as a wine bar, although the selection would need to be much broader than it is now. Stuzzicheria is not bad for what it is, but you’d like to see the chef take a few culinary risks.
Stuzzicheria (305 Church Street at Walker Street, Tribeca)