Sunday, August 26, 2007

Is Bianca New York's Best-Value Italian Restaurant?

If anybody knows an Italian restaurant in New York that is both better and cheaper than Bianca, please let me know. For now, based on a single dinner, I'm declaring Bianca New York's best-value Italian restaurant.

The restaurant, at 5 Bleecker Street, is a casual trattoria specializing in the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna, in Northern Italy. Bianca serves excellent versions of the hearty staples of the region around Bologna. It's not haute cuisine; it's solid, damn good cooking, executed with honesty and panache, at amazingly low prices. Pastas are $9-11.50, and meat and seafood courses are $14-15. It's cash only and they don't take reservations.

I've previously written about Via Emilia, another restaurant serving the food of Emilia-Romagna. Via Emilia is reasonably priced, but Bianca is cheaper, and I think as good. Though Bianca serves gnocco fritto, the wonderful fried dough with salumi that I enjoyed at Via Emilia, I haven't tried their version.

We didn't order from the appetizers section of the menu, but rather shared an order of the fritto misto, which is listed as a main course. This has been a favorite of prior reviewers. Bianca's version includes calamari, shrimp, fish filet and eggplant strips. Actually, I was disappointed by this dish. It was a bit too salty, and calamari dominated too much, with only a couple of small shrimps and a few tiny pieces of fish to be found in the large heap of fried seafood.

Bianca turns an excellent northern-style lasagna (with bechamel), and I found it superior to Via Emilia's version. The salsicce e fagioli featured three large, delightfully spiced sausages with white beans. The tagliatelle alla Bolognese was a thoroughly delicious, authentic rendition of the dish, the pasta perfectly al dente, the meat sauce bold and robust. All servings were extremely generous.

I only sampled one dessert, but it was a winner: an apple tort that had the consistency of a bread pudding.

If the large servings of excellent, dirt-cheap food weren't enough, our waiter and George, the owner, were extremely friendly. Who do they think they are?

Bianca on Urbanspoon


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