>> 2/6/14

45 Mercer Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-9288

Myna had a surprise spa appointment in Soho (courtesy of her awesome boyfriend) and I wanted to browse REI for some ski stuff. Getting dinner in Soho was only logical. Plus, it's what couples in their 30s do. They eat in Soho at trendy spots filled with other people in their 30s who live beyond their means before shopping. Or after shopping. Either way, shopping's in there somewhere.

Galli is actually a good sized restaurant. But it's narrow and divided into four sections (front dining room, bar, middle booths, rear dining room), creating a sense of small intimacy no matter where you sit. We sat at the bar for a few minutes shaking off the cold and having a drink while our table in the rear was being prepped. We wound up getting a nice corner seat that allowed us to scan the room without looking as obviously voyeuristic as we clearly are. "Everyone here is attractive" Myna noticed. It was freakishly true. You probably won't enjoy Galli if you don't look in the mirror that day and say "I look good." I remember going to Beauty & Essex where dolling yourself up is part of the game. Galli is relaxed. Jeans instead of glitter. But the same people are there. I'm always amazed these places let me in the door. (I am aware that there is a very well-behaved little kid at that table. Half an hour later, the family headed home)

Galli has been called Italian comfort food, a description that I believe does it a disservice. Italian comfort food conjures up images of family style bowls of overcooked pasta and clams casino that's more breadcrumb than clam. Some people love that stuff, though I am far from in that camp and was thankful that Galli isn't either.

Myna ordered the Greek Salad, which is about what you'd expect. It wasn't breaking any new ground. Olives, cucumber, feta cheese, red onion, tomato, etc. Your standard Greek salad."Y'know, this is an Italian restaurant. Getting a Greek salad seems somewhat... I dunno. Sacrilegious" I said. "Well," came her reply. "Then they shouldn't have put it on the menu." It was a good salad. I chose the Grilled Calamari appetizer because I can't not order grilled calamari if I see it on a menu. It was supposed to be served with an arugula side salad, but really it seemed as though the salad was served with a side of calamari, given its relative size. And while it's hard to bemoan an arugula salad (though there are people who dislike arugula, which to me is akin to disliking the color tan or a plain cotton t-shirt), I would perhaps have preferred that it didn't dominate the dish. Anyway, how was the calamari you ask? Yummy. That's how it was.

As I said, Galli is comfort food. The entrees here aren't fancypants experiments of roast lamb with a veal-infused-butter-glaze under a Madeira reduction and a spoonful rosemary and dill creme-fraiche. Instead, they have spaghetti and meatballs. No shit. I didn't get it, but it's there. Instead, I went with the Chicken Francese, a seared chicken breast in a very thick, very delicious white wine and lemon sauce, with a side of somewhat generic veggies. Myna took a slightly healthier route and opted for the Sole, also pan seared, but breaded and with a side of spinach. Both were great and the fact that these common, relatively simple dishes can be made so well here at Galli only served to reinforce my utter loathing of the standard red sauce Italian restaurants that continue to make it poorly. Galli is proof that the dishes aren't at fault. Instead, it's the incompetency of the chefs and the complacency of the customers who deign to take good enough over good. Ugh.

The meal was good enough to make getting dessert an easy decision. I mean, we were on a roll.

Dessert was a Panna Cotta that was so silkily creamy that it was like eating a creme brulee without the sugar crust. Honestly, it was so smooth that logic would dictate that it shouldn't have been able to retain its shape and instead should have been a puddle at the bottom of the plate. If you go and are can't decide whether to get the panna cotta or something else, allow me to end the debate with "yes, get the panna cotta."

Two appetizers, two entrees, drinks, a dessert, and coffees, plus tax and tip, totaled $131.

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