Flat Iron District, 18th St. btwn. 5th and Broadway or East Village, 1st Avenue, corner of E. 10th St.
In these tight times, Tarallucci e Vino has locked down a winning formula with its assaggi, otherwise known as small tastes. But this place is about more than just smart sizing and packaging. How do I know this? 1. I’m a regular. 2. Tarallucci e Vino is on the radar of virtually every Flat Iron-Union Square- boho-yipster Italian touring downtown. A typical weekend afternoon scene is thirty-and- forty-something Italian couples sitting outside discussing whether to order the panini or a salad while leafing through La Repubblica or reviewing the Euro-over-dollar deals they grabbed at the nearby Diesel .
For dinner, the dual-sized variation of the entrees allow you to enjoy fabulous eats and not make you feel like a blithering failure with your diet. Alternatively, the flexible portions lend itself to sampling more than one dish, although, an antipasto and a small primo of pasta will happily sate my appetite on most days. The antipasti are fun and inventive. You have to try the sage fritters and the roasted artichoke. I have not had a primo that I have not enjoyed here. The homemade pasta with duck is exquisite. The tender noodles absorb the subtle juices and strips of duck will just dissolve on your tongue.
While the seconds are not the main attraction at Taralluci e Vino (most people there gravitate toward combinations of salads, assaggi, antipasti or salumi and pastas) and smaller in number, they represent every meat group are both inspired and pleasing to the eye. The wines, however, are slightly overpriced and poured stingily.
But basically, I am able to enjoy this place at all times of the day. For breakfast, their cornetti alla crema are just like the ones I get from my favorite cafe’ bars in Southern Italy and instant nirvana for me. But the entire baked goods counter is hands-down excellent. Anticlimactic, by comparison is the consistently disappointing cappuccino. Despite the fact that they use a high quality espresso from a machine that produces terrific crema, the cappuccinos are consistently cold. Perhaps it’s just a matter of adjusting the machine settings. Neverless since they fail to nail it on the cappuccino, I now opt for straight espresso, or Americano in the morning, depending on how sleep deprived I am.
In the afternoon, it’s great for a tea and pick-me-up pastry or wine and assaggio. Since it tries to emulate the concept of an Italian bar, you can even take your pastry to go or eat it at a small table next to the counter or at their sidewalk cafe.
After work, it’s a great place to have a drink and share a platter of cheese and salumi.
The best deal however is at lunch time. At $9.95, the greatest value items are their perfectly pressed panini. They come with manifold sweet and savory fillings and the choice of whole grain bread or ciabatta.
Opt for this 18th St. location before going to First Avenue. It has a much larger-seating area, the wider menu, a pleasant airy and rustic decor and by far the better service.