There are a few reasons why it’s so difficult to snag a reservation at Locanda Verde during both brunch and dinner. Due to a bit of mis-communication, I called to reserve a two-top on Friday afternoon for Saturday brunch. The only times they had left were for 10:30am and 1:30pm. So, we settled for the 1:30pm time slot (I had requested a noon reservation).
First, Locanda Verde is operated by none other than Robert De Niro (as well as Ira Drukier and Richard Born of Greenwich Hotel). He’s invested in roughly 25 restaurants around the world (check out his interview with NYMAG). Then, there’s the chef, Andrew Carmellini. Now here’s an impressive resume- He started off as a sous chef at Le Cirque and eventually became a protege of the famous Daniel Boulud where he became the chef de cuisine at Cafe Boulud. He eventually opened A Voce, earning a Michelin Star. Now, he’s the chef and partner at both Locanda Verde and The Dutch.
Given all that, I’m surprised we snagged a reservation at all considering the last minute planning… And even when we entered at 1pm, we overheard the hostess telling a stray couple that they’d have to wait 45 min for a table. It wasn’t until we were leaving around 3pm that the place began to somewhat clear up.
Soft Scrambled Farm Egg Crostino with leeks, mushrooms and speck ($17)
Clearly, this was a highly anticipated brunch and I had nothing but high expectations. Leaving, I had mixed emotions about this place. Part of it was my fault- I should have ordered a pasta dish. After all, Carmellini is known for his pasta making skills. Instead, I went with a recommendation from the server and got a very traditional brunch dish- soft scrambled farm egg crostino.
Crostino is a thin piece of crisp toast. The crostino that came in this dish was seriously the size of my fist and sliced under an inch. A bit underwhelming, to say the least. When the dish first came out, my heart dropped. I felt cheated. Here it was- simple scrambled eggs on toast with sides that could be easily replicated elsewhere.
But as I ate, I began to taste the complexities that emerged from such a simple looking dish. First, the scrambled eggs were unlike anything I’ve ever had. Whereas most scrambled eggs are a bit hard and mildly rubbery, these scrambled eggs were like floating puffs of clouds. It reminded me of the time I had tried out Gordon Ramsey’s recipe for scrambled eggs. I remember being appalled at how they turned out- they were slightly runny and completely loose. But that’s apparently how the French do it. It’s just different from the traditional American scrambled eggs, and something that I’m not quite used to. Still, these were delicious.
There’s not much to say about the salad, but the prosciutto was perfectly salted.
Sabrina ended up getting the linguine with clams, which looked absolutely mouthwatering. I’m not a big fan of clams, so I had a bit of the pasta by itself. To sum it up in two words, it was OVERLY SALTY. Salty to the point where I couldn’t taste the sauce. At least the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente.
Despite the saltiness, Sabrina thought it was still tasty. They were quite generous with the clams at least.
Amongst all of the dishes, the best was a tie between the crispy garlic potatoes and dessert. Before you write off potatoes, let me just say that these were PHENOMENAL. Holy crap. The best potatoes I ever had! They were actually completely crispy on the outside and the inside was super soft. There’s a ton of crushed and slightly burnt garlic which were equally as delicious. I definitely recommend getting these as a side.
I am thinking of potatoes here…
Coconut Semifreddo: mango sorbetto, mint, and lime ($10)
This was one of the top most intricate and delicious desserts I’ve had. By intricate, I mean the pairing of flavors. The only other dessert I’ve had that’s come close to this is at Pichet Ong’s Spot Dessert Bar, where basil ice cream was paired with olive oil cake and white miso semifreddo.
This dessert was executed very well. The mango sorbet was actually subtle compared to the coconut semifreddo (semifreddo is a lighter version of ice cream and made by combining whipped cream and ice cream). What I loved about the semifreddo was the bits of chunky coconut inside the semifreddo. By itself, the semifreddo was a bit too sweet but with the mango sorbet, it was just right. The mint, in the form of a syrup like drizzle, was a refreshing contrast.
I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of their bread because it was super good. There was cheese and butter melted into the bread, which made for a light and airy yet toasted and very flavorful bread.
Overall, it was a decent experience, though slightly disappointing (partially because of all the buzz around the restaurant). Still, the next stop is The Dutch, and hopefully I’ll remember to order something less typical…