Note: Founding chef Gabe Thompson left dell’anima (and the group’s other restaurants) in October 2015.
What do you get when a former Babbo sommelier (Joey Campanale) and a former Del Posto and Le Bernerdin chef (Gabe Thompson) open a casual Italian joint at neighborhood prices? You get dell’anima, one of those instantly popular, crazily-crowded places, that you figure you’ll never get into.
Strangely enough, I got in last night—a bail-out choice when Corner Bistro was too crowded. Reservations at dell’anima (which means “of the soul”) are tough to come by, but there was one lonely bar stool free, and I grabbed it.
The space is casual and cramped. In an early visit shortly after dell’Anima opened in late 2007, Frank Bruni found the food pleasant but unadventurous, and the service was too slow. He did not bother filing a full review, but it scarcely mattered: dell’anima was a hit, and its owners now have a follow-up at nearby L’Artusi.
The menu (click on image for a larger version), which changes daily, is in the standard four-part format, with antipasti e insalate ($11–16), primi ($16–18), secondi ($20–28) and contorni ($7). There’s an odd mix of English and Italian: “PORK CHOP, ribolata refrito, pear mostarda” is a typical dish. In case you were wondering, pasta fatta in casa.
I wanted to eat simply, so I started with the Endive ($12; above left) with anchovy citronette and pecorino. Flavors were bright and forward. Trofie ($16; above right) was unexplained, but I rolled the dice anyway. Short pasta noodles, slightly thicker than spaghetti, came in a spicy blend with bacon, tomato, shallots, and rosemary.
I didn’t check out the full wine list, but the selections by the glass were ample, and not just generic choices either. A 1999 Satta Vermentino was just $12 per glass.
Service was attentive and brisk—an improvement from some of the early reports. I overheard the bartender offering to transfer a tab to a diner’s table, something the customer had not even asked for. At most places in dell’anima’s price range, exactly the opposite happens. As I was leaving, the hostesses made a point of thanking me for the visit, a nice touch often lacking in places like dell’anima that clearly do not need my business.
dell’anima (38 Eighth Avenue at Jane Street, West Village)