Having enjoyed an expectation-exceeding meal at Scarpetta earlier this year, I decided to return, in no small part to savor another bowl of spaghetti and polenta, but also to see if everything was as delicious as I remember. It is.
Upon being seated, we were greeted by Ashley, a friend and server, who knew I’d only be in town for a few days and wanted to make sure my experience was memorable by incorporating several off-the-menu items into our ten-course dinner. Ashley’s faultless service was reinforced by a charming Florentine named Fabricio, while Chef Freddy Vargas did his part in the kitchen.
We started off on a (mostly) familiar note, a fish preparation that included–from left to right–(1) yellowtail with ginger oil and pink Hawaiian sea salt, (2) a roulade of tuna brimming with preserved truffles and crunchy carrots and (3) ono tartare with radish, pickled cucumber, chives and finger lime.
After the disappointing tartare just days earlier at ink., I was glad to have that memory cascaded over by a carpaccio of Wagyu beef garlanded with an uni vinaigrette, potato crisps and shaved white truffles.
Another delicious repeat was the creamy polenta topped with truffled mushrooms, though this iteration benefited from the addition of shaved black truffles.
Moving to a slightly lighter offering, next came an impeccably seared sea scallop with tiny triangles of parsnip, parsnip purée, bloomsdale spinach and a thyme-truffle reduction.
All three of the pasta courses–(1) spaghetti with tomatoes, basil and a slight piquancy from red pepper flakes, (2) a squid ink-laced stracci with lobster, tomato and basil breadcrumbs and (3) spinach-imbued tagliolini with dungeness crab, chili, shaved black truffles and an emulsion of egg yolk, pasta water and preserved truffles–proved to be a veritable dissertation on upscale rusticity as the pleasantly toothsome-textured noodles equilibrated with delicious condiments.
For the penultimate savory course of the evening, we were treated to another off-menu item: pan seared turbot with almost impossibly sweet cippollini onions–both whole and julienned–and a salsify-cippolini sauce.
And to finish, yet another off-menu dish: a yielding coriander-crusted venison with yam purée, cherries and chestnut spatezle.
The trio of dessert–from left to right, (1) a flourless chocolate cake with burnt orange-caramel gelato, (2) deconstructed apple crostata with crispy brioche, caramelized apple and cranberry compote, and (3) date pudding with caramelized banana, pomegranate and oatmeal-banana gelato–delivered just enough sugar to balance the cavalcade of well-seasoned savory courses.
Content and sipping an espresso, I concluded that somehow Scarpetta managed to become even better, and I cannot wait to return to take Chef Vargas up on his offer to sit at the counter and allow him to personally cook for us all night.