I go to press dinners thrown by publicist Susan Rike because, well, it's free dinner, and because sometimes I meet interesting people at them. Her approach to introducing media to her restaurants is to host dinners of, say, between three and ten journalists at one table. She'll generally hold three such dinners over the course of two or three weeks.
I knew most of the people at last night's dinner at Basso 56 — a new contemporary Italian place near Patsy's, the old-school Italian-American landmark that was Frank Sinatra's favorite restaurant and a good place to go for a veal chop. But I hadn't met Adam Sherrett. He's a nightlife editor of Shecky's, a Michigan native who arrived in New York last August by way of San Diego.
Susan began to tell the story of Basso 56's owners, husband-and-wife team Paolo and Ellen Catini. They recently closed Basso Est on the Lower East Side and opened the new, larger restaurant which Susan said was in a less out-of-the-way location.
"Wait, wasn't Basso Est on Houston and Orchard?" Adam asked.
Houston and Orchard is right on the border between the Lower East Side and the East Village, so if you're a young New York hipster it's about as good a place as any to mark as the center of the universe. But apparently the Catinis were looking for a different crowd. And Midtown West, between the theater district and Lincoln Center certainly is a fine place to attract diners. Management said they were drawing more neighborhood foodies than pre-theater folks, just as they intended.
Paolo Catini hails from the Italian region of Abruzzo.
What we ate:
Bruschetti with burrata and speck
non-vintage Prosecco Crede, Bisol, (Veneto)
Gamberi e Canellini (shrimp and Tuscan white beans) with rosemary and olive oil
Fagottino alla polpa di aragosta (crêpes filled with confit of lobster, with tomato and chive velouté)
2005 Kerner, Abbazzia di Novacella, (Alto Adige)
Saffron risotto with asparagus and quail
Primitivo, Ca’ntele, 2004 (Puglia)
Filetto di dentice in Brodetto (striped bass) in white wine and lemon broth with fennel and Manila clams
Grillo, Firriato, 2005 (Sicily)
Petto d'Anatra in Crescione (roasted duck breast) with balsamic reduction, sautéed watercress and dried figs
Nebbiolo delle Langhe, Produttori del Barbaresco, 2004 (Piedmont)
Assorted desserts, including a crepe in chocolate syrup and a sort of hazelnut napoleon.
Brachetto d’Acqui, Marenco (Piedmont)