What America Tastes Like

Tiny Symphony in NY’s Little Italy

I try to make a distinction between “American Italian” and “Italian” when dining. This helps me to expect a genius of artistic yet simple flair if I’m at an Italian place. Or, “a whole lot of cheese” otherwise. Simplicity can be wonderful, but to me, the taglierini porcini e tartufo just tasted underseasoned and lacking.

There’s nothing wrong with mushrooms, olive oil, and pasta – but if that’s all you’re going to do you’ve gotta be masterful with your salt.

The Canneloni, however, was an experience that built upwards. This started off as “just fine,” like the little flutey bits at the beginning of a symphony. “Tweedle deedlee deeee.” Nice, okay. Despite the pasta being expertly fried, it offered only a nice ricotta and a humdrum not-too-sweet marinara when I took my first bite. A solid performance, but one quite expectable until…

the server brought over their house-made oil.

(He made a trip to the table specifically to bring a bottle provided for the dish)

This chile-infused olive oil was exactly the type of bold and elegant touch that took it over-the-top. All the cymbals crashing and kettle-drums did their thing. The back of the throat smooth “pepper” of an amazing olive oil, combined with the elusive and perfectly-chosen character of whatever these chiles were, turned the canneloni into a sublime experience.

I had to ask “What kind of olive oil is this?”

I asked, because I wanted to find a bottle on my own. Of course, this is exactly why the house should keep such a secret to itself.

“Extra virgin.” The server has said it a thousand times with exactly the same polite but neat finality. The end of the performance.

351 Broome St
New York, New York



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