For all the large number of Italian restaurants out there in NYC, it’s not easy to find places that focus on the soulful cooking of Tuscany region. Sure, the decadent red-sauce Italian American dishes are great when done right, but on our trip to Italy last fall, my wife Jun and I had found out just how much of the “essence” of Italian cooking we had missed. None of the places we had visited in Tuscany (or other parts of northern Italy, for that matter) displayed bold, strong flavors at New York classics like Babo; shockingly, the flavor was kept at a mild level throughout, with the real focus on freshness of ingredients and the high level of attention to consistent execution. When I heard about a modest operation in the Alphabet City area of Manhattan that does Tuscan cooking, I knew that Jun and I had to check this place out. Overall, our recent Friday night dinner at Fiaschetteria Pistoia turned out to be quite satisfying, although it was hard to say our experience was just like what we had in Florence or the Tuscany wine country.
For appetizers, Jun and I got a salad and a zucchini flan. The salad with artichoke, pine nuts and parmigiano cut in large sheets was a simple yet delicious dish whose citrusy flavor did quite well in whetting our appetite. My favorite dish of the night was definitely the silky smooth zucchini flan with parmigiano cream that was so well-balanced in flavor that Jun and I had no problem making a quick work of it in minutes. It was one of the best Italian appetizer dishes that I’ve had in recent months! We proceeded to order and share a couple of pastas, seeing that there wasn’t anything in the secondi option that caught our eye. The simple and rustic cooking of Tuscany region is perhaps best reflected in pastas. You don’t need much to create a cacao e pepe that was cooked with a satisfyingly chewy texture for its al dente spaghetti noodle and the combination of pecorino and black pepper giving just enough of spicy kick to make the dish so appealing, yet I don’t think many Italian restaurants in the city have pulled this simple-looking dish as well as Fiaschetteria.
We all love meat sauce-based pastas, but the understated sophistication behind the maccheroni with slowly cooked duck Bolognese was quite something else too, not over-the-top yet flashing a rich complexity of flavor that made us reminisce our fun times in Italy last fall. The flavor of both dishes could still lose a tad more seasoning, but nevertheless we liked the kitchen’s endeavor to bring the dishes as close to the taste of Tuscany as practicable. For dessert, Jun enjoyed the tiramisu that we split, although I wished it came out a little bit more moist like the epic one we had in Florence.
The restaurant accepts reservations by phone only, and you are likely to have no issues securing a walk-in table other than during prime times on Friday and Saturday. The Italian-centric “wine list” at Fiaschetteria consists, charmingly, of bottles inside a portable rack, so order one from Tuscany to savor your meal with. The restaurant’s vibe is not much different from countless other run-of-the-mill casual Italian restaurants in downtown Manhattan, yet Fiaschetteria feels like a place that shows you how Italian cooking should be properly done. If you have an craving for a satisfying Italian dinner, I recommend checking it out if you are willing to venture all the way to the Alphabet City neighborhood.
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 8.0/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 647 East 11th Street, New York, NY 10009
Telephone: (212) 777-3355