355 W. 46th St.
City: New York, NY
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Chef: William Gallagher
Area: West 40s
Entree Price: $15-20
Payment: Amex Visa Mastercard Discover
Becco beckons with heaps of delicious Italian cuisine, proving the exception to the rule that one must sacrifice quality for quantity. Located in Hell’s Kitchen and established by PBS cooking icon Lidia Bastianich, the restaurant is now under the guidance of executive chef William Gallagher.
Much like the unpretentious attitude of Lidia’s programs, Becco’s personality is not stuffy, yet tastefully upper scale. There are several dining areas and two floors; our dining room was lit by bright sconces and lined with Tuscan landscapes. Wine racks occupied the back, and the ceiling had rather odd squares of carpet floral patterns. Not super-trendy, but soothing. The diners were a mix of businesspeople, theatergoers, and tourists.
For antipasti, I ordered the insalata mista, with red onions, assorted beans, oven dried tomatoes, and mozzarella. The tomatoes surprised me, bursting with flavor that paired well with the blander mozzarella. This was on one plate; the other was packed with chilled squid and swordfish. I actually mistook my first bite of the squid to be tender, fatty ham. We also ordered the baked shrimp, zesty with a peppery sauce and served in ample portions for two.
As an entrée, I selected the “Symphony of Pasta”, a daily selection of three pastas that are continually refilled by unskimping waiters. Basically, this was Olive Garden’s “Never Ending Pasta Bowl”, only good. The three pastas that night were ravioli stuffed with mushroom, truffle butter and sage; rigatoni Bolognese; and spaghetti. I was a little overpowered by the richness of the ravioli, and favored the unexpectedly spicy sauce of the thick, al dente spaghetti. The beauty is that you can refill with what you’d like. I would, however, recommend having your plate switched periodically. Otherwise, the symphony becomes less an arrangement of distinct culinary notes than gloppy goo, albeit tasty goo.
For those with any remaining appetite, there is a dessert menu. We ordered the zabaglione with seasonal fruit, which was a custard with berries. Again, no complaints; the paired dessert wine was also excellent. Including two glasses of wine, the total bill was $50 per person.
To me, what really captures the dynamic at Becco was how unobtrusively our waiter asked if we wanted our leftovers bagged. This is a restaurant that treats its diners like hungry friends, and like a friend, insists on packing away the leftovers to be taken home and enjoyed later.
Review By: Eric Wang