Magazine article The New Yorker

Antica Pesa

Magazine article The New Yorker

Antica Pesa

Article excerpt

The original Antica Pesa, in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood, is one of those quaint little family-owned restaurants with a celebrity following (according to press reports, Quentin Tarantino likes the cacio e pepe). At its new Williamsburg location, the decor is slick: mod white light fixtures, huge leather couches, roaring fireplace. The crowd--when it does not include Madonna and her backup dancers, who stopped by recently, according to Page Six--usually has a fair number of tourists, plus some young professionals and European party people. A jazz band sometimes plays. For the disoriented: you're not in Rome, or a midtown hotel. This is the new new Williamsburg--of the coming Whole Foods, the megaclubs, and the glass condos on the waterfront.

The most ambitious thing about Antica Pesa may be its pricing: eighteen-dollar appetizers, twenty-eight-dollar entrees, and, on the wine list, an eleven-hundred-dollar bottle of Barbaresco. The formula resembles that of Manhattan power-lunch spots like Casa Lever, with a variation: instead of serving traditional Italian food in a modern setting, the owners have taken traditional Roman food and attempted to modernize it. The effect is not always Lever level. One night, a fifteen-dollar appetizer was billed as a "trip through the Italian countryside." It turned out to be chunks of cheese, slices of salami, and a single breadstick draped with bresaola ham, in individual vessels that looked like ashtrays. In another appetizer, eggplant slices are fried and then wedged, vertically, into a loglike schmear of mascarpone and ricotta cheese. …

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