I’ve been going to Impastato’s, a marvelous neighborhood gem for, literally, my entire life.
My father took me as a wee child into young adulthood, and after he died, my uncle took me. Mr. Joe is family, though often he doesn’t even know it. He recognizes me, but doesn’t place who I am … Always greets me with a smile like he knows me, but never with a question about how my family is. It’s no wonder, as the story is too sad for an explanation. Perhaps he does remember.
This weekend, after almost two years, I went back.
And home is where I was once again.
It was a stupendous dinner; simple but elegant, filling yet satisfying. By all stretch of the imagination, it’s the best home style Italian in the city …. With no offense to my modern favorite chef, Adolfo Garcia, of course. Dim lighting led to not so lovely photos, but you get the drift.
It took two minutes to decide that, of course, Mr. Joe’s Dinner Special menu was in order. Nicole took excellent care of Table 51, the best table in the restaurant (except, of course, perhaps … the booths in the Pink room.)
First course, crab claws and shrimp scampi.
Second, the amazingly original, ever popular, simple and tasty Pasta Ascuitta & Fettuccine Alfredo Combination. I don’t know what he puts in that red sauce (though I suspect it’s a grand amount of parmesan), but gosh is it yummy.
Third, a house salad, with a lemony, peppery house dressing that lays delicately upon the lettuce. No running, no pooling … just perfect. Two halves of a large cherry tomato accompanied the greens, and while a little squishy for my taste, they were perfect to offset the vinaigrette.
Fourth, the fish of the day, Redfish with a crabmeat lemon buerre blanc. The tastiest, lightest, most perfectly pan seared fish I have had in years. Seriously. (Oh, and the Osso Bucco also hit the table!) (You can see my salad in the foreground there.)
Fifth, dessert. Now, Nicole spilled the beans on her personal favorite. Telling a guest your “personal favorite” is usually a surefire way to do one of a few things. One, the guest says “no, thanks, though,” if they feel they’re being manhandled. Two, the guest just decides to get nothing. Or three, the guest understands that when a server puts his or her name and goodwill on a dish, they’re praying you like it since their tip and your happiness heavily depends on the last course. Well, let me say this … It’s like the most scrumptious best banana cream pie you’ve ever had in your life … coupled with a gracious layer of blueberry pie filling, but with a Graham cracker crust meant for a king (or Queen). Chunks of banana grace every bite and the richness of the banana cream with the tart of the blueberry makes your tastebuds do somersaults in your mouth; you wonder how you ever survived without it before. When I described this to Nicole, she said to me, “oh, God, you’re in my head. That’s how I feel, what I say. Wow.”
And so I was.
I topped it all off with a very traditional bottle of Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, ending on a high note with a cappuccino. The reservation was for 7, I got there twenty minutes early and still got out by 915.
All in all, it was a gorgeous time. Great food, great music, great service. I won’t wait two years to go again. I’m already planning my next visit.
So, when you’re thinking about where to go to get good Italian and all you can think about is Verona, or Venice, or Rome, or even Sicily …. “just fughet a ’bout it!” Italy is right here, in our own backyard.