124 Chambers St. (Church St.) Tribeca
Walk into Ecco’s for the first time and you will immediately feel whisked away to a gilded New York where taste was not an assumed posture but a given. The elegance of its antique mahogany furniture, regal turn-of-the-century bar and intimate church pew booths will buoy your spirits and allow you to escape the mundane and the current mass portfolio panic. Serving traditional Italian fare, Ecco’s large space and diverse seating arrangements make it a great choice for a cozy tête-à-tête or a group event.
Our dinner began with a complimentary Italian cold antipasto. It was delightfully savory with sliced sopressata and a generous assortment of Italian olives gently seasoned with red pepper. This wonderful courtesy tasting dish would have been enhanced by a more exciting bread basket. Ecco’s bread was an ordinary semolina variety that lacked in texture.
While the menu selections could use an update or at least a couple of imaginitive additions to the mostly Italian and Italian-American favorites, the cuisine is skillful and refined and the food is tasty and executed with an eye toward presentation.
The tricolor salad my guest and I shared deserves highest marks for freshness, dressing and presentation. The wonderfully bitter radicchio was abundant and crackled with flavorful freshness, and the vibrant arugula was tasty and mildy peppery. The dressing was a delicious sweet balsamic vinaigrette bestowed delicate notes of tartness without being overbearing in the least.
For my , I ordered homemade pappardelle alla puttanesca, Since I was not up to to richness of the ricotta in their pappardelle casalinghe (Ecco’s take on this dish often prepared with porcini mushrooms and mascarpone is with tomato sauce and ricotta), but very much in the mood for homemade pasta, I requested my pappardelle puttanesca style and the wait staff was happy to oblige. The dish I was served was attractive and richly satisfying. While I would have eased up on the quantity of sauce on my pappardelle as well as the profuse shower of capers on my pasta, the tomato sauce was notably good and the pappardelle were supple and tender. I enjoyed the tiny dent that I made in this big boy sized plate of puttanesca.
My guest ordered the chicken paillard. Perfectly grilled and accented with rosmary and fresh herbs it was exceptional and recommendable without reservation.
Since the food was so abundant, my guest and I were determined to forgo dessert and limit ourselves to espresso. The waitstaff, however, stopped us from the self-imposed sweet interdiction by serving us a complimentary plate of homestyle chocolate, almond biscotti. Sweet touches like these merit praise and cheerful obliging.
While the tabs here are not small (average entree is $25), the food and experience are worth it.
For further atmosphere, the bar at Ecco hosts piano bar evenings on Friday and Saturday nights.