This restaurant is closed!
45 East 22nd St (near Park Ave)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 982-8422
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Area: Flatiron District
Entree Price: $25-30
My Dinner at Beppe
Being thankful is a state of being we sometimes have to remind ourselves to experience. We rush around, work, eat, work, eat, run, play, sleep. Repeat. Taking stock in what we have can sometimes (read: often) get lost on the feverish road of consumption we call life. Don’t get me wrong, I love to consume—food especially—but I do recognize that I sometimes have a tendency to see what I don’t have, rather than what I do. But I have been feeling very grateful lately. And this week, I was struck by how lucky I am to have Jamie and Susie in my life. They are two of my closest girlfriends and I adore and cherish them. This year, the three of us decided to have dinner, in honor of our friendship. We chose a neighborhood place we had never been but had always been jonesing to try: Beppe.
Susie, you must understand, is more passionate about food than pretty much anyone I know (even me). By the time Wednesday afternoon arrived, she had already perused the online menu and mapped out our meal. Around 3pm, Jamie and I got an email sent from her Blackberry. The subject line was “Beppe Baby!!!” The content was as follows: “Checking out menu online, I am feeling the ramps & their homemade sausages as apps (at LEAST! maybe a salad too), any of the pastas, and then any / all of the orata, branzino, tagliata, Milanese and the Tuscan fries with garlic and fried herbs?!?!?!? and of course, some Italian VINO!!!! Love you guys!”
As you can see, Susie is slightly obsessed with food. To further illustrate, when she recently went to China for work (she is incredibly successful and a star of her company and her industry) she sent Jamie and I detailed descriptions of EVERYTHING she ate (the emails were pages long), including commentary like “unidentifiable, DNE (did not eat).” She is a riot. And did I mention, absolutely, drop dead gorgeous? (Inside and out.) And yes, so is Jamie, who is a ringer for Terri Hatcher. They both can pretty much stop traffic when they exit their apartment buildings. It’s lucky I love them so much or I’d hate them.
Anyway, Beppe is one of those places I have been meaning to try since it opened five years ago. But I just never got around to it. I am sure you have heard of the owner, chef Cesare Casella, a jolly fellow who is sort of like a culinary Santa Claus, a round-bellied Tuscan chef whose hallmark is a bouquet of fresh herbs tucked into his breast pocket. He just opened a Wild West/Tuscan spot called Maremma in the West Village (which I did not like at all), and while he attends to business over there, chef Marc Taxiera is in charge of the home front kitchen. Marc is doing a stellar job, and his stage is a lovely one. Beppe is cozy and toasty on these cold nights. It feels like an old farmhouse, with sturdy tables dressed with yellow gingham napkins, a blazing open fire hearth, beamed ceilings and hardwood floors. It warms every inch of you.
We started, as Susie suggested, with those sausages—Salsiccia ($12)—and people, I must say, these sausages caused sighs of joy. Susie and I were in a transcendental state of ecstasy while Jamie, a former chef, analyzed the sausage’s brilliant spice content. “It’s cinnamon!” She was right. The sausages are seasoned with a spice blend from Livorno that features 19 spices, including that soft, sweet one, cinnamon. The plump and juicy links are served in a cast iron skillet with creamy, fat white beans and a fresh strand of rosemary. Soon, that strand was the only thing left in the skillet. The salt cod ($10) however, was fairly blah in comparison. It was watery and sort of flavorless, stewed with garlic and tomatoes and bedded on a mound of soft polenta. We left it alone and instead concentrated on mopping up the last of the sausage pan juices with some bread.
While we rested our tummies between courses, a plate of the most magnificent French fries were shuttled past our table. The three of us softly moaned, in unison—OH MY GOD! Those fries looked so fine that George Clooney could have been walking by with Gael Garcia Bernal, and Clive Owen, and I don’t think we would have noticed them. Susie had already ordered them (the fries, not George, Gael and Clive), so we knew they would be ours soon enough. We began to drool.
We were still drooling when the pasta courses arrived. We ordered two to share—the Norcino ($18) and the Tagliatelle ($19), both of which won our hearts outright. The Norcino is rustic and sensual—thin, fresh strands of hand-made “butcher’s spaghetti” are gently smothered in a rich ragu made of crumbled pork, garlic, red wine, rosemary and roasted tomatoes. It’s the sort of pasta I might eat out of a pot until someone took me away and locked me up. The Tagliatelle was nice as well—ribbons of red pepper pasta toasted with briny clams and roasted cauliflower. But it lacked the ability to turn me into a raving pasta-seeking lunatic.
We were all turned into lunatics when the Tuscan Fries arrived ($9) with our Orata—a grilled whole fish served with a perfect lemon-herb vinaigrette ($29). The fish was moist and sweet and tender and all that but who really cared with those fries on the table. Honestly, people, these fries are not to be believed. How have I lived all these years without them? I immediately added them to my list of things to be thankful for. (And I have already returned for more of them.) They are long, lean and golden, generously salted, and piled about a foot high and tossed with fried fresh herbs—rosemary, sage, and thyme. We started to pick them off, one at time, and our conversation, which had been intelligent and interesting, was transformed to this: Ooooh, Ahhhh, Ooooh, Wow, Oh my God, Mmmmm, Ahhhh.” Yes, three thirty-something women seated in front of a blazing fire, getting hot and bothered by a plate of fries. I urge you to try them as soon as possible.
After eating the plate of fries clean (note that there were fries for like six people on that plate and we ate them ALL), we sat back and finished off our second bottle of wine. (If we smoked, cigarettes would have been appropriate.) We were punch drunk (or just drunk), and Jamie and I actually started singing The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside,” for Susie who had never heard the song. Yes, singing in the dining room. Out loud. In front of people. It was not pretty. “As singers, you guys are disasters,” Susie said, dismissing our effort as a duet. With that she pulled out a pair of Ziploc Baggies from her purse. “I made these for you guys!” The bags contained what appeared to be brown hockey pucks. They did not appear to be edible. “They are bran muffins,” she said, clearly noticing our frightened expressions. “But I think something happened to them because I gave a few to my doorman and he isn’t speaking to me anymore.” Jamie and I were not sure what to say. They looked a bit deadly. “Wow, thanks Suze!” was the best we could come up with as we quickly stowed the ten-pound leaden bran bricks in our purses. Then we lovingly suggested that she baked as well as we sang. We toasted to that.
At this point, we realized that most of the staff was heading home, so we decided it might be a good time for us to leave as well. We hoisted ourselves out of our seats, brushed the fried rosemary from our clothes (in our French fry frenzy we had gotten a bit messy), and walked out into the cold bright night. And there, on 22nd Street, three drunk and happy girls huddled and hugged, thankful for sausages, for Tuscan Fries, and most of all, for each other.
Review By: Andrea Strong