17. December 2007 Chinatown, Italian 0

136 Division Street between Ludlow and Orchard
$50 each for five, with two bottles of wine, with tip

I used to know someone who lived on Madison Street in the deep recesses of Chinatown five years ago, but I haven’t been back in the area since then. Before that, Good World on Orchard was the place to be among dot-comers. For the last four years, I’ve been working in and around SoHo and have grown to love Frank DeCarlo and John LaFemina’s Peasant on Elizabeth Street. Its downstairs space is one of the places I end up in when I don’t have a reservation nor a dinner plan.

When Bacaro started appearing in food blogs as DeCarlo’s latest project after splitting from LaFemina, I kept a note in my head to make it back to Division Street when I get the chance. That opportunity came a little earlier last week when five of us wanted to eat from small plates and share bottles of wine but had nowhere to go. I had to lend my cab driver my iPhone to show him where Division Street is located because he said he had never heard of it. I was dropped off in the corner of a very quiet and deserted street. If it weren’t for the few smoking outside, I would have thought my Google map was wrong.

At 7pm, the four in our party were at the bar waiting for a table. We witnessed as other groups were seated as soon as they came in. It became worrisome that once another group showed up, we’d have to leave to find another restaurant, unless we wanted to wait for another hour. The bartender was nice enough to seat just the four of us–he made a smaller group move to a smaller table near the door just to accommodate us–and let us order food and wine while we waited for our fifth.

We started with duck prosciutto and some pear slices. Salty and tougher than the prosciutto I’m used to, the pears were still a good match. The braised duck leg that was served when our party was complete fared better, although it was still on the salty side. I assumed the octopus would come in vinaigrette just like they have them in Peasant, but they were fried in batter like calamares, which I’m not a fan of. It was amusing to find lemon peels and yellow bell pepper covered in batter, too, but I just thought the dish didn’t belong with the rest of our food. I also thought the meatballs were going to be gigantic like they have them at ápizz, John LaFemina’s second venture but without DeCarlo, but they were so small I could have eaten twenty more of them. The polenta salad was the most interesting because it was topped with a small chunk of cod. At Bacaro, everything I thought was a salad did not come with any leaves. The cod whet our appetites and prepared us for the gnocchi cooked in brown butter with mushrooms and the pasta with anchovy sauce–one warm and hearty, the other difficult to split among five.

Related post/s:
Peasant was Frank DeCarlo and John LaFemina’s venture before they split to do ápizz (LaFemina) and Bacaro (DeCarlo)