Maialino is probably the hottest Roman restaurant in New York City right now. It can’t help it; it’s a Danny Meyer restaurant and New Yorkers love Danny Meyer.
But there’s a lot of Roman food out there.
Lupa’s full name is Lupa Osteria Romana.
Sandro Fioriti, currently of Sandro’s on the Upper East Side, has been dishing up carciofi alla giudia and any number of carbonara and amatriciana dishes for the better part of 25 years, and, well, Florence Fabricant recently gave a rundown of Roman restaurants in the Times.
That makes Roman the trendiest Italian regional cuisine in New York at the moment, but there’s a poll on the right side of this screen asking you what your favorite Italian region is for food. Go ahead — pick one. (Rome’s in Lazio, by the way).
Not too long ago I had lunch at one of New York's newer Roman places, Sora Lella. Sora’s slang for Signora, or madam, and Lella was the nickname for Elena Trabalza, the original chef of the original restaurant, on Isola Tiberina, a little island in the Tiber River in Rome.
I went to the New York branch with the restaurant's publicist, which is a good thing, because the restaurant was closed for lunch that day and its owners don’t speak a whole lot of English, except for the chef, Fabio, who, you know, had to be in the kitchen making lunch.
I understand a fair number of Italian food words, but not much else.
Sora Lella’s owners are a nice group, all family members, who said they decided to finally open in New York after visitors from Gotham to their restaurant in Rome had been bugging them to do so for years. They opened their doors in far western SoHo (Spring St., between Hudson and Renwich streets) about nine months ago.
Their business partner, who owns the building, told me about how many new residences and businesses were being established in the area, something I'd been hearing about the neighborhood since Dani opened four years ago two blocks away from where Sora Lella is now. Dani failed to thrive and closed a scant two years after it opened, but a bunch of restaurants have opened around there since then, like 508 — at 508 Greenwich St., a block and a half away.
The owners of both Sora Lella and 508 say they’re doing well and enjoy good followings from local denizens, including the celebrities who live not too far away.
When I had dinner at 508 recently, Thom Filicia, the interior design guy from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, was at the bar, so that’s something.
At Sora Lella, Fabio’s family entertained me and poured me glasses of Roman wine while the chef served me his grandmother's polpettine, which the menu translate”s as “Nonna Lella’s Sliders.”
Nonna means grandmother, and polpettine are actually meatballs. But I guess "sliders” are slightly more trendy than meatballs — although maybe not, according to my friend Andrew Knowlton who I just saw on TV a little while ago declaring meatballs the food of 2010.
I’m afraid I don’t know what show he said that on, because I don’t watch morning TV programs that invite people like Andrew to talk about food, but a tiny clip of it was replayed either on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, and I saw it there.
Back at Sora Lella, I also had classic gnocchi all'Amatriciana and braised oxtail with pine nuts, among other things.
The Trabalzas have embraced their restaurant’s new American location, and even are offering a Super Bowl menu this Sunday.
Here it is, for $65 (not including tax or tip), including all the beer and wine you can get down your neck (house wine, of course):
Classic Caesar Salad
Polppettine della Nonna Lella
Beef “sliders”, Breaded, Deep Fried and Topped with Tomato Sauce.
Fried Calamari with a Spicy Tomato dipping Sauce
Bite-size Roman Riceballs
Our Pizza is Stuffed with a Choice of the Following:
Broccoli and Sausage; Classic Margherita; Eggplant and Zucchini
Topped with Lardo, Liver Mousse, Classic Tomato, Artichoke
Mixed Cured Olives