After our marriage, my wife Jun and I had not been to Italian restaurants as often as we used to for a number of reasons, one of which is that Jun cooks some really delicious pastas at home that I am confident can stand up to any Italian restaurant in the city. For a casual dinner with friends, however, Italian restaurants do come in handy. One of Jun’s good friends who left NYC a while ago was coming to visit and I figured this was a good opportunity to try one of the Italian restaurants in the city that we had not yet been. After some searching, I chose San Carlo Osteria Piemonte which focuses on cuisine from the northern region of Piedmont. It turned out to be a smart decision, as a lot of the dishes that we tried were quite delicious.
My biggest complaint with Italian restaurants in NYC has been the overuse of salt and other seasoning condiments to juice up the flavor to cater to American diners. San Carlo thankfully avoids a lot of that issue, and retains great balance of flavor in its dishes. While Jun was preoccupied catching up with her friend on the good old days they parties in the city, I was able to focus a bit more on the food. I thought the vitello tonnato made with thinly sliced veal eye round was excellent in texture, and the tuna sauce provided just the right amount of flavor boost. Pan seared scallops that came with cauliflower foam, anchovies and garlic dressing and polenta chips was another winner in the appetizer department that I was glad to take two out of four on the plate while the girls were chatting.
Jun can make a splendid meat ragu pasta that has drawn praise from our guests when we host a dinner party; if I am a pescatarian, I think the seafood ragu based rigatoni at San Carlo would have been a nice replacement. Between the two pastas that we had ordered, though, the one that I will keep thinking about will be the delicious spaghetti with anchovies and onions sauce that gave pleasantly earthy taste. The duck breast accmopaied by celery root puree and raspberry vinaigrette that we ordered as the lone main dish was serviceable in texture, but didn’t outshine the previous dishes that we had sampled. For dessert, panna cotta with strawberries coulis and pistachio crumble is a must-order dish where the silky smooth panna cotta works beautifully with the crumble. Tiramisu is not a bad dessert to have either, although I feel like Jun and I had tried better ones at other places in and out of NYC.
Getting a reservation at San Carlo wasn’t too challenging but the dining room filled up very quickly during our meal so booking in advance is highly recommended. The restaurant has a typical downtown neighborhood restaurant vibe that will help with a pleasant dining experience, although the noise during prime time is something you will need to consider. There is a full bar at San Carlo, and the wine list is not surprisingly focused heavily on Italian wines (we tried an interesting syrah blend from Tuscany that really grew on me during our meal). If you are looking for a solid Italian dinner in downtown Manhattan at a place that is not super-crowded and somewhat off the foodie radar, San Carlo is an excellent option to consider.
KenScale: 8.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 7.75/10)
- Creativity: 8.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: 90 Thompson Street, New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (212) 625-1212