21 Greenwich Avenue
New York, NY 10014
(212) 645-2121

Speeds and I were sitting on a Gay Street stoop when St. Love arrived. We debated where to go. It's hardly much of a debate, really. We initially thought that we'd try Kingswood, thee trendy New American about a block thataway. The bouncers at the door told us that it was unlikely that they'd have space. Sure enough, the wait was over an hour. But hey, across the street was Grano Trattoria. It wasn't deserted (a good sign), they weren't too pricey (a welcome sign) and there were a few open tables. We went in.

If the West Village has a local Italian restaurant, and Italian restaurant without the pretense, without the celebrity endorsement, where diners eat with their friends and gab pleasantly for hours under the haze of their third bottle of red, then that restaurant is Grano Trattoria. Grano, wrapping around the corner of Greenwich and 10th, is hardly small despite my somewhat claustrophobic photo down there. Most of the tables were taken, people were eating at the long bar, staff was running around. While not loud, Grano was certainly lively. The staff was very nice, but they were at the table so often that it felt like they were hovering. And while our meal was pleasant, I can safely say that I've had way better.

Alas, that seems to be a constant theme with neighborhood Italian restaurants. They exist not to provide food so much as they exist to provide a comfort level. Perfect example: Billy Joel's "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant". It's a bottle of white, a bottle of red... perhaps a bottle of rose instead. He couldn't care less what particular sauce-coated starch he's ingesting so long as it lets him suck down more vino. Booze and gossip.

So what did we order? My appetizer was the Carpaccio di Manzo con Arugola e Parmigiano, beef carpaccio (thin-sliced raw beef) under a small pile of arugula and Parmesan cheese. Speeds and St. Love had alternating opinions. He felt it was too warm, she thought it was too cold. I'm of the opinion that room-temperature carpaccio is the way to go and this was room temperature. I liked it, save my one complaint that the carpaccio wasn't firm enough. It was too soft, leading it to shred when cut. Speeds and St. Love always order calamari when they go out. The Queen of Diamonds is my only explanation. To Grano Trattoria's credit, their calamari, the Calamari Ripieni alla Sorrentina isn't your typical battered and fried junk. It's three huge uncut calamari in a spiced tomato sauce. Unfortunately, it isn't that good either. It was passable.

For entrees, without trying to sound obnoxious, my choice was easily the best. I ordered the Gnocchi di Spinaci con Gorgonzola e Noci, spinach gnocchi in a Gorgonzola cheese sauce topped with walnuts. It was delicious. The Gorgonzola gave the gnocchi, which had the a simply perfect texture, a dark smokiness and it paired extremely well with the walnuts. If you go, I seriously recommend this for dinner. St. Love got the Lasagna al Forno con Vegetali, a vegetarian lasagna that frankly I didn't care for. It was painfully bland. Maybe the sauce needed more red wine? Meat would have helped. He liked it more than I did though and Speeds certainly liked it more than her meal, which she didn't even get halfway through. The all Taglierini allo Zafferano con Gamberetti e Peperoni Rossi, saffron noodles with shrimp and bell pepper in a cream sauce. Speeds can often be a pain in the ass, to be be sure, and she asked for a substitution of artichoke for bell pepper and asked for no garlic. The staff was very nice throughout though. Still, it was pretty bad. There was a distinct fishy taste to the dish, likely because the cream sauce had clam in it and they thought it would work well with the shrimp. It didn't.

Okay, time for dessert! Coffee's all around of course (duh). Again, sadly, we weren't blown away. St. Love ordered the Chocolate Polenta, a very rich chocolate cake that's also very dense and, thanks to using polenta, very gritty. Smooth it was not. Speeds got the Tiramisu, which was decent, but it was on the watery side and bled onto the plate. I had a similar reaction to my Panna Cotta. Decent, but it wasn't firm enough. Maybe not "watery" but if you know what a panna cotta's texture should be like when you slice into it, you get the idea.

So... great atmosphere, helpful albeit somewhat over-present staff, and not badly priced... but the food was hit or miss with a likelihood of miss.

Two appetizers, two drinks, three entrees, three desserts, three coffees, tax and tip came to $144.

Grano Trattoria on Urbanspoon

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