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Written by Gary J. Arzt

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

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leisure and relaxationrestaurants and dining
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It's not hard to find Italian food on Mulberry Street. But, it's not always easy to find really good Italian food there.

I was coming out of a cigar store with a business associate, on a recent visit to New York City, and we were considering where to eat lunch. Looking left, looking right, I saw crowded outdoor tables at every restaurant that lined both sides of the street. It was a very beautiful day in April. Amen ... because, if we were going to smoke a cigar, we would have to dine outdoors.


Scanning the street, something caught my eye as I looked directly across from the tobacconist. What I saw was Sofia's Kitchen ... with a beautiful sign and a big, red tomato in place of the 'o' in Sofia! Sounds silly, I know, but that was enough for me. We crossed Mulberry Street and were quickly and politely escorted to a table.

 Sofia's Cucina

I'm very particular about my meals. My son would say, " ... anal," so, I rarely put myself in the hands of the Maitre d', captain of waiter. On this occasion, the proprietor, Nelson Shaked was in the restaurant and he came over to welcome us. I broke with my own tradition, and just said "we'd like some lunch!"

After Nelson, who is assisted in running the restaurant by his son Paul (also attending college at NYU), uncorked a bottle of Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico and poured us glasses, he gave some instructions to the waiter, and we imbibed while chatting with Nelson and talking about food, wine and cigars. Three things dear to all of our hearts.

The first course to arrive was an exquisite Insalate Classico made with, obviously, fresh ingredients and I beautifully mixed simple oil and vinegar dressing. The salad was substantial in size and we ate heartily, drank and continued our conversation.

While it was necessary for Nelson to return to his other customers, he stopped by frequently to see that all was well. And, it was well indeed!

For the pasta plate, I was brought Gnocchi with a light, yes light, gorgonzola dressing ... to which I applied some fresh ground pepper. My friend and colleague had a shallow bowl of Linguine Vongole put in front of him. After the waiter dappled it with some fresh oregano and ground pepper ... we both dug into these dishes like true trenchermen.
Linguine Vongole
Linguine Vongole

My gnocchi were exquisitely small ... something one doesn't always see, but much more enjoyable, by the ‘mouthful' than the larger, gumball sized gnocchi that are prevalent.

It was obvious that my associate, Eddie Ortega was thoroughly enjoying his linguine as he had placed his cigar in the ashtray and pushed the ashtray aside. When I noticed that, I realized I had done the same ... so enthralled were we by the simply, but beautifully prepared fresh food.

As I said, there is no dearth of restaurants on Mulberry Street, but we had obviously picked a real winner.

I wondered what would be next ...

My eyes went wide when an order of Osso Bucco appeared, and Nelson reappeared to; personally, serve out the portion to Eddie and me. I could immediately see that the veal was hardly hanging on the shanks. Soft and tender with the rich flavors acquired during hours of braising

After the salad and pasta dishes, the Saffron Risotto that accompanied the veal was almost too much. But, likewise, it looked to good not to taste. I can reliably report that it was excellent, with that perfect consistency and moisture that is not always achieved when making risotto. Neither of us consumed much of it, but it was damned good.

The foods, the wine, selected by Nelson were all superb and well matched. For desert, he chose to leave us to our own devices.

We opted for Cannolis and Espresso.

Polishing off the last of the wine, we settled our bill; thanked Nelson profusely; promised to return (which we did a day later) and set out for our next appointment. Both of us sated and savoring, now, the memory of an excellent meal.

The décor at Sofia's is simple yet elegant. The service attentive, friendly, yet not intrusive. Our waiter, in particular, was extremely pleasant.

Sofia's Cucina
143 Mulberry Street
Little Italy
New York City, NY 10013
Telephone: 212.219.9799
www.sofianyc.com

Sofia's Cucina Little Italy

Sofia's Cucina New York




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