Entries in Bar Stuzzichini (5)


Feast of the Seven Fishes at Stuzzicheria

Stuzzicheria, the Italian small-plates restaurant in Tribeca, offered the Christmas season’s cheapest Feast of the Seven Fishes, at $49.

It turned out to be an even better bargain than I expected, because the restaurant put out only one serving for my son and me to share, whereas I was fully expecting to pay $49 each. With bread (below left) and a shared dessert, the whole bill was just $70.25 before tax and tip.

A copy of the menu is shown above; click on the image for a larger version. Strangely, the dishes were not served in the order stated. The food was unremarkable: a good home cook could do about as well, although not without slaving in the kitchen all day. This took about an hour.

1. Crostino: Marinated white anchovy & fresh mozzarella (above left)

2. Insalata di Calamari: celery, lemon & red chili (above right)

3. Vongole: baked Little Neck clams oreganata style (above left)

4. Agro Dolce: sweet & sour fried flounder (above right), probably the most enjoyable dish

5. Bacala Casserole: potato, cippolini onions & tomato (above left)

6. Gamberetti: grilled prawns [sic] scampi style (above right). Despite the description, you can see that it is only one prawn.

7. Sardina: grilled sardine, fennel, pinoli & raisins.

Dessert, beignets with (if I recall correctly) almond ice cream (above right) was very good.

Everything but the dessert and the flounder was frankly forgettable, and a couple of the dishes (the prawn, the sardine) weren’t really well designed for sharing. My son wasn’t fond of these dishes, but he put up with them gamely.

My feeling about this place, as it was when I visited in September, is that the flavors and the ambition are distinctly timid. The service wasn’t bad, allowing for the price point. The restaurant was a bit over half full on Christmas Eve.

Stuzzicheria (305 Church Street at Walker Street, Tribeca)



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)


Bar Stuzzichini

Note: Bar Stuzzichini, later renamed “Stuzzi,” closed in September 2012.


I’ve been catching up on intriguing restaurants that have been open a while, that we missed during the opening review period. For all but the most compelling places, the New York media pays attention—if at all—for only the first few months. The critics then move onto the latest New Thing, and the vast majority of places will never be reviewed professionally again.

Bar Stuzzichini is like that. In September 2007, Frank Bruni’s awarded one star, pronouncing it a “modestly, intermittently troubled” restaurant, but “an honorable effort worthy of note. Its dishes include more successes than failures.”

At age two, Bar Stuzzichini is surviving, if not quite thriving. At 6:30 p.m. on a Friday evening, we found the outdoor seating packed and most of the bar stools taken, but the large dining room only about 20% occupied. The food was all satisfying and worth a try if you’re in the area, but otherwise not particularly memorable.

The name refers to a broad selection of small plates that dominate the top half of the menu. (Bruni tells us that the Italian verb stuzzicare can mean “to provke,” “to stimulate,” or “to tantalize.”) There are about two dozen of these. They’re $4–10 à la carte, but most people seem to order platters of them. Any three are $18, a portion that is suitable for two to share.

If you order a cocktail during happy hour, you get one of the stuzzichini for free; I tried the Baccalà Fritto or Fried Salt Cod (below left; normally $6), which was nicely done: the fish had a salty brine, the breading was light and crisp.

After we sat down, we had the Salumi Tasting ($28; below right), an ample portion for two. All four meats were excellent (Pork Shoulder, Sweet & Spicy salami, and 18-month prosciutto). My girlfriend was especially fond of the pork shoulder, while I preferred the spicy salami.

On the rest of the menu, salads are $8–9, pastas and soups $7–18, entrées $17–24, and side dishes $6–7.

Neither of our main courses was as memorable as the salumi. Braciole del Pizzaiola, or braised short rib in tomato sauce ($22; below left), had a hearty flavor, but I wouldn’t rush across town for it. Eggplant Parmigiana ($17; below right) was left in the broiler too long, and was a bit burnt.

The wine list is priced in line with the food, with plenty of bottles below $50 (though you can spend more if you want to). We were so delighted with a 2004 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva ($42; photo above) that we went home and ordered three more bottles of it online.

Service was efficient enough for this type of restaurant. It did not seem to be at all “distracted or perfunctory,” as Frank Bruni reported. We also liked the room and couldn’t at all fathom Bruni’s comparison to a “Midtown mess hall.” Actually, for a large space it is reasonably charming.

If you’re in the area, Bar Stuzzichini offers a refreshing and inexpensive diversion.

Bar Stuzzichini (928 Broadway between 21st & 21nd Streets, Flatiron District)

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


The Payoff: Bar Stuzzichini

Today, as expected, Frank Bruni awarded one star to Bar Stuzzichini, finding the Italian small-plates joint flawed but worthy:

The restaurant’s agents of tantalization include creamy sheep’s milk ricotta seasoned with saffron and drizzled with honey; ethereal buffalo’s milk ricotta stuffing involtini of thinly sliced eggplant; fried meatballs, each consumed in one crunchy, happy bite; and a tangle of astonishingly tender octopus, poached and then grilled, which is a smart way to treat an octopus.

On a given night there are some 25 stuzzichini in all, each priced between $5 and $10. Only a fool would order them individually because $22 buys any combination of five, and that’s a deal that gives Bar Stuzzichini something to crow about, a hook in a city and era of determined grazers.

Eater and I both took the one-star bet at 2–1 odds. We both win $2 on our hypothetical one-dollar bets.

          Eater        NYJ
Bankroll $40.50   $44.67
Gain/Loss +2.00   +2.00
Total $42.50   $46.67
 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Won–Lost 17–5   16–6

Rolling the Dice: Bar Stuzzichini

Every week, we take our turn with Lady Luck on the BruniBetting odds as posted by Eater. Just for kicks, we track Eater’s bet too, and see who is better at guessing what the unpredictable Bruni will do. We track our sins with an imaginary $1 bet every week.

The Line: Tomorrow, Frank Bruni reviews Bar Stuzzichini. The Eater oddsmakers (after a hiatus last week) have set the action as follows (√√ denotes the Eater bet):

Zero Stars: 4-1
One Star: 2-1
Two Stars: 6-1
Three Stars: 75-1
Four Stars: 25,000-1

The Skinny: Yawn. Another review, another Italian restaurant…Bruni’s favorite. Yet again, it’s one of those earnest neighborhood places that probably belongs in the $25-and-under column.

Adam Platt gave the place two stars this week, but he admitted he was biased:

Bar Stuzzichini is in my approximate neighborhood. It is modestly priced (off-duty restaurant critics tend to be cheap), and as the name indicates, you can dine by yourself (off-duty restaurant critics also like to be left alone) at one of two long, convivial bars.

I give Platt credit. At least he admits that he is reviewing based on criteria that no responsible critic should depend on. Bruni is less self-conscious about doing the same.

Though Platt’s tastes tend to track Bruni’s rather well, in this case I don’t think Bruni will be quite as generous. He’s going to want to let Franny’s bask in the glow of the big wet slathering two-star kiss he adminstered a couple of weeks ago. To do it again so soon would dim the luster of that review.

The Bet: We agree with Eater that Frank Bruni will award one star to Bar Stuzzichini, though probably on the higher end of one star—it is Italian, after all.