A little padding in my schedule during a reasonably recent trip to New York afforded me the opportunity to head to the West Village for lunch at dell'anima. I'm not sure I would have ventured there if it weren't for having met the young sommelier and restaurateur phenom behind dell'anima, Joe Campanale, along with his mother Karen, when they trucked it down to Philly to co-host a Friuli wine dinner at Osteria, or if it weren't for having connected with both of them in the staccato realms of social media. As dellanimom, Karen snippets up a storm on Twitter on behalf of her son's establishments; it might sound kind of crazy-corny to some, I suspect, but she does a great job with it. We should all be so lucky as to have our moms out there canvassing for us—far more effective than the usual PR spin.
Anyway, back to dell'anima... I'm glad I made the journey. It's the kind of all too rare spot—I've written about a few others here in the past—that's worthy of destination dining but first and foremost provides a bastion of comfort and quality to its own neighborhood. I was surprised at how cozy the dining room is: just a small bar, a dozen or so tables and an open kitchen. Fittingly perhaps, I don't recall being awestruck or otherwise astounded by anything I ate that afternoon, just pleasantly sated by good quality food served in a very welcoming environment by a crew that pretty clearly cares about what they're doing.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Campanale has put together a pretty sharp, all Italian wine list with some strong selections by the glass and welcome depth in the back vintage department for those ready and willing to explore (1971 Movia Ribolla, anyone?).
That by-the-glass program provided me with the welcome opportunity to continue my exploration of the pleasures of pasta carbonara paired with the white Lazio wines of the Monastero Suoro Cisterci, where Paolo Bea's son, Giampiero Bea, has been a consulting winemaker ever since the Sisters' first vintage in 2005. Last time, it was Coenobium "normale" paired up with the traditional spaghetti alla carbonara at Otto; this time around, it was the more skin contact intensive version of Coenobium, called "Rusticum," poured to accompany dell'anima's tajarin alla carbonara.
The combination of tajarin (an egg-rich pasta style traditional in the Langhe) in place of spaghetti, speck (native to Alto-Adige and the Südtirol) instead of pancetta or guanciale, and a whole, runny-when-forked egg yolk put a decidedly northern Italian spin on the Roman classic. The overall conception and impact being similar, though, the carbonara was still Roman at heart, and the local wine (Coenobium is produced about an hour's drive north of Rome) was a crack pairing, the full body, grippy structure and oxidative nuances of "Rusticum" working quite well with the richness and creaminess of the dish.
Now all that's needed is a reason to find myself in the West Village at lunchtime again. Soon.
38 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10014