January 24, 2005 | Ask Gael
Do we really need yet another Italian restaurant?

    If it’s good, I say, let’s mangia. And Lo Scalco, with its minimalist Baroque setting - high arched ceiling, white ceramic chandeliers, and minions dramatically descending the open staircase toting trays of covered dishes from the kitchen - is hardly just another trattoria. Veteran chef-owner Mauro Mafrici’s creative twists on tradition can be remarkably good. The à la carte menu strikes me as expensive, but our quartet opts for the four-course tasting, reasonable at $48 - every dish different, and smartly paired with our Sicilian red from Chiaramonte. Grilled swordfish as a starter could be rarer, but it zings with flavor on a fragrant basil-spiked green tomato purée. Luscious asparagus-and-squab-plumped tortelli float on a puddle of chicken stock with olive oil and a buttery flourish. A zaftig langoustine perches atop a leek risotto that owes its saltiness to bottarga. And “long ravioli,” the chef’s invention, turns out to be pasta ribbons wrapped around sole. Delicious. Generous entrée portions - saffron-perfumed veal shank, a flavorful beef filet, roasted branzino - come with bitter greens. We order dessert, and the chef sends out impeccable cheese platters too. (“We like to give everyone something extra,” he explains).

313 Church Street near Walker Street  212 343 2900

Patina Restaurant Group