Dinner Plans #38
Chicken isn’t the only thing getting roasted.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again (and again every time a host quickly shuts us down), “We couldn’t get in” is the Song of Summer 2021. We’ve never had a more difficult time getting a reservation or table at our favorite spots than we have these past few months, which is devastating because we love paying exorbitant amounts of money to eat pasta made by people who aren’t scared to use the correct amount of butter and drink cocktails that have actually been measured out, but also wonderful because it’s forced us to do those things in our own kitchens. We’ve covered Kiki’s before, the cheap and perfect but always-packed LES legend, and today, we’re tackling everyone’s favorite—no really, it’s your girlfriend’s favorite, your mom’s favorite, your really picky friend who is allergic to nuts and hates fish’s favorite—spot: Via Carota. Easy, breezy, beautiful Via has 3+ hour long waits every hour of the day, every day of the week, which makes weaving through the dark and sparkly dining room to your very own tiny wooden table incredibly special and just about impossible. That’s why we have a menu reminiscent of their light, crunchy, cheesy, peppery, Campari-heavy one for you today, plus perhaps some of the pettiest Dinner Plans you’ll ever read, because don’t you remember where we met? xoxo, your very scandalous, only a little scarred Sifters <3
ON THE MENU THIS WEEK:
Smash Burgers, Animal Style: I crave red meat perhaps 2 times a year, and I take it as my body trying to tell me something about iron levels or the like yada yada-- the joys of intuitive eating! One of those cravings hit this week, so I followed my heart to the meat counter and bought some 80/20 ground beef. We dove into all things burgers last week in our weekend newsletter, On the Back Burner, but under-represented one of our favorite styles: the California Classic, In-N-Out Animal Style. With my annual dose of ground beef and the other ingredients I had on hand, I set out to make a similar style smashed, crispy-edged burger. A smear of dijon and some Colman’s mustard powder took the place of the signature yellow mustard-griddle and some sautéd shallots stood in for In-N-Out’s grilled onions. Mix every burger condiment in the fridge door with some mayo and you’ve got secret sauce! I was sadly lacking potato buns, but luckily, had my personal runner-up: ye olde English muffin. The nooks & crannies are ideal for holding special sauce and soaking up all that beefy jus (side note: is it just me or does the Thomas’ slogan sound kinda kinky? Just me?) Don’t think burgers should be served on English muffins? Fight me in the comments! -Court
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Roasted Chicken: Perhaps you’ve heard about a certain roast chicken recipe in a certain magazine “by” a certain girlboss that a certain person wasn’t going to ask for credit for. And I’m still not asking for credit, at least not on the record. If you understood any of that, you know the recipe is already published elsewhere, and that it’s not much of a recipe. It’s a whole, raw chicken, a decent amount of butter, your favorite starchy or crunchy vegetables, and some aromatics. You fill a Dutch oven (and it better not be that one) with the chopped veg (I like a mix of onions, potatoes, carrots and fennel) and toss that with a little olive oil and lots of salt and pepper. Then, you melt maybe half a stick of butter over the raw chicken, seriously salt and pepper it, stuff it with a lemon that you’ve sliced in half and maybe a few cloves, or even half a head of garlic, and plop it on top of all those vegetables. The whole thing roasts on 400°F, uncovered, for an hour, or until the chicken is fully cooked. I like to shake the pot every 20 minutes to make sure the vegetables are soaking up the chicken schmaltz and I always let the bird rest for 15 minutes before carving it to lock in all those juices, but hey-- that’s just silly, underpaid, underappreciated little me! -Gab
SO YOU COULDN’T GET IN TO VIA CAROTA
Insalata Verde: I usually have to fight my dinner dates to get such a boring-sounding salad into our order, but never at Via. People are obsessed with this tall stack of sweet greens (never to be confused with sw**tgr**n), and for good reason. The mix of lettuces offers what feels like a million different tastes and textures, and the dressing is an expertly formulated combination of sweet shallots, creamy mustard, sharp vinegar and silky olive oil. The lovely Lauren Goldstein waxed poetic about the dish, and more specifically, the recipe for it (something you can do too). She notes that “the recipe says the dressing lasts for 3 days in the fridge, but I find that it actually holds up for about 5 days, but the shallots start to get soggy after that.” Lauren also calls the dressing “liquid gold,” and loves it on more than just lettuce. “Roast chicken! Canned cannellini beans! Thick slices of heirloom tomato from my garden!” We love her brain.
Snap Pea Salad: This isn't a dish from Via’s exact menu so much as it’s one inspired by it. When I think of eating there during the spring and summer, the standout dishes in my memory largely originate from the Verdure section of the menu. I think of fresh fava beans, peas, and baby artichokes, all peeled and shelled with precision and dressed up with a light touch, so as to accentuate their natural beauty, not distract from it. When I want to recreate it at home, I turn to recipes like this salad. It’s light, bright, and beautiful in its simplicity. If you don’t want to follow a recipe, follow this formula: buy the most peak-season vegetables you can find at the greenmarket, plus some soft herbs like basil, mint, or dill. Then add some fat in the form of cheese like parm, mozz, or burrata if you're blessed with a digestive system that can digest it. Call me Ina, but you really want to use GOOD olive oil (I like this and this one, but feel free to send us your faves!) to dress it. Really, to do Via any justice, you’re gonna want to use GOOD everything, down to the salt, and pepper. Toss it all, maybe add a splash of acid via vinegar or lemon juice, taste, and adjust your seasoning. Don’t go overboard-- this dish is the edible version of that Coco Chanel quote.
Cacio e Pepe: is Cacio e Pepe cheugy? Maybe. Do we care? Certainly not. While it might be the most basic b*tch pasta on the menu, it’s a classic for a reason, and on our table at any of Jody & Rita’s restaurants pretty much every single time. Plus, for lil’ lactose intolerant Court, its emulsified-pasta-water creaminess is a godsend. Do you really need a cacio e pepe recipe? Probably not, but here’s a solid one anyway.
Zabaglione: I normally like to lean hard into the chocolate torte-butterscotch budino-tiramisu side of the menu, but after having a spoonful of (someone else’s) berries and zabaglione at Via one night, it’s now the only sweet thing I’ll order there. It’s simply a bowl of tiny berries—some combination of blue, black, rasp and straw—and cold, Marsala-heavy cream with a consistency that dances on the line between spoonable custard and runny cream. This simple, three-ingredient version comes from Gina DePalma, who is both a pastry legend and an Italian one, and would be delicious with juicy slices of any in-season stone fruit you can get your hands on.
Negroni, 1000 Ways: Okay, maybe not a thousand ways but if you’ve been to Via or one of their sister restaurants, you know that they specialize in Negronis every which way. Since to-go cocktails are a thing of the past, there’s never been a better time to experiment with cocktail making at home. Invest in a fancy stirrer! Buy some local spirits! Get weird! This guide is hugely helpful in exploring all the Terra, Bianco, Sbagliatos, and more.
Say you can’t get into Via Carota…. or I Sodi….or Bar Pisellino, or you just don’t feel like cooking, or maybe you’re just avoiding the entire West Village for a little while things simmer down. Whatever your reason is, here are a few more of our favorite spots in New York that will give you that same je ne sais quoi as Via, just with a slightly more approachable waitlist.
For Italian in Manhattan, Altro Paradiso is a pretty good 1-1 sub for Via (née Café Altro Paradiso until Justin Timberlake in a curly wig told them to drop the ‘cafe’—“It’s cleaner.”) Their menu is smaller, but they always have off-menu pasta staples like cacio e pepe and aglio olio, plus your chances of celeb spotting are high (my boyfriend and I recently dined here next to Charlie from Girls).
I would tell you to go to Dante for drinks, but that would be cruel because there’s no way you’re getting in there.
Vic’s is another a reliable spot in Noho with *rolls eyes at myself* ‘seasonal fare’, but also very solid Negronis, pastas, and importantly, a much more accessible reservation system.
If you’re in Brooklyn, I implore you to try LaRina Pastificio in Fort Greene—it’s got authentically Italian fare, great cocktails, and one of the hottest waiters/bartenders in this godforsaken city (who also DJs under the pseudonym Pasta 007 which is just…. perfect.)
Locanda Vini e Olii is another wonderful, sophisticated, food-casual atmosphere spot in Clinton Hill that Adrien Grenier frequents, ticking both your Pasta & Hot Man boxes!
For the same vibe but not-Italian food, you simply can’t go wrong with King. We said it before, we’ll say it again, their ever-changing menu of hyper-seasonal food is simply flawless and I dream about their panisse in the way I dream about Via’s salad.