Did you ever go somewhere so wonderful that you wish you could stay there forever? Better yet, have you ever eaten some place that was so delicious you wanted to crawl into your dish and stay there forever? Have you ever wanted to kidnap the chef so that you could eat like this every day? If that is too drastic, have you ever wanted to at least write him/her a note proclaiming your eternal devotion for them and anything they ever cook or create from that moment on? I certainly have.
I am lucky I have had these kinds of experiences on several occasions, most recently at Scarpetta in New York City.
I have decided to take this time to write my own love note to its owner, creator, and chef, Mr. Scott Conant.
Dear Scott Conant,
I am writing to you to tell you that while your restaurant was very nice it is missing a very important element: rehab programs for those of us who have gone recently and can’t seem to stop drooling about it!! I seem to be having this problem a lot recently so I guess I will be a frequent patron. I am so glad your restaurant lived up to the hype.
Signed, The Queen- a fan for life.
Now for those of you who are about to read this blog and relive my experience with me there is a word of caution. I truly suggest to do not do so on an empty stomach. Go get a snack. Eat something you are really craving. This is my final warning. After you read this you will be hungry. But no matter what you eat it won’t satisfy you. Trust me I am taking deep breaths and sweating just reliving it long enough to write about it. Damn that Scott Conant!
The best way to describe Scarpetta to someone who has never been is actually to use what is posted on its website:
“In a Greek revival townhouse on the edge of the Meatpacking District, Chef Scott Conant brings his deft touch and unwavering passion to creating food that is unexpected and soulful. An Italian expression that means “little shoe” - or the shape bread takes when used to soak up a dish -- Scarpetta represents the pure pleasure of savoring a meal down to its very last taste.”
I have heard the chef describe what Scarpetta means on television and that the name was the inspiration for the fresh breads he serves on each table for every patron. We must stop here.
This is not the stale, day old bread you would get from a chain restaurant. No, here we have an assortment of four kinds of bread, two made at the restaurant and two made at the Sullivan Street Bakery. But the most famous bread in the basket isn’t even bread, it’s a stromboli. This is a form of Italian style stuffed bread, sort of like a calzone, that has cheese and meats in it, in this case salami. This is the stuff most places would charge for. It is so hearty it could be a meal on its own. It was even featured on Best Thing I Ever Made during the “Sandwiches” episode.
As if that wasn’t enough, there was still another menu item that was beckoning me to visit.
My good “friend” Ted Allen, chef and frequent guest on just about any Food Network show, once decided to tell me (yes by me I mean me and the rest of America) about the best thing he ever ate with sauce. That happened to be Scarpetta’s spaghetti. At first I know you will make the same face I did, as everyone does at first. Really, spaghetti? You are going to go to a great restaurant like that and only order spaghetti? How can that spaghetti be any different than the many, many bowls I have eaten during my life? I would have doubted it too except for one thing- Ted Allen. Ted Allen was telling me so it must be true. It was kind of like that George Washington cherry tree story. Ted Allen would never lie to me, and every single suggestion he has given has been a stroke of genius. (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2012/08/for-baked-goods-down-butter-lane.html)
With these two things swirling around in my mind there was never any doubt I would eventually end up at Scarpetta sooner or later. There was also never any doubt what I would order. I knew I would want to try other things so that is why you always bring a guest!
On that evening, my game plan was simple- sharing. Since there was two of us, my brother was my lucky dinner date, we would each order and appetizer and share. Then I would of course order spaghetti but also get to taste another entrée.
When we arrived the restaurant was just reopening for dinner. God I love that. I don’t know why but I do. I love that feeling when you are arriving as the first guests of the restaurant watching the waiters set up and get their orders for the night. There is something about the feeling in the air. All of the best restaurants do it.
Of course when I arrived I was desperate to sit down and scream my order to anyone who would listen. But I pretended to act like a normal person. Luckily for me I had a wonderful waiter who took the time to ask why I was there. We chatted a bit about the chef and that special spaghetti. Therefore every time he walked by and I had my camera out I didn’t feel like such a freak. I mean I would have done it anyways but this way I felt I was blending in. He gave me great tips and stories about the restaurant. What I loved hearing the best was what a great guy Scott Conant is in real life. It is always such a pleasure to know that people who are extremely successful in life don’t always have to lose their touch with reality. The only downside of this talk was that I had missed seeing the chef by two days. With his insanely busy schedule I hadn’t planned on him being there but the great thing about New York is anything is possible.
After I had calmed down slightly from this knowledge my full attention was back on the menu. It was time to get back down to business. Once we decided on our meals it was time to dive into that divine bread basket. It was better than I could have imagined. It also was endless. That’s right they kept refilling it. I needed more break like a hole in the head but when in Rome….Another bonus was the three dipping sauces that came on the side. By far my favorite was this eggplant puree that was out of this world. I was resisted the urges to put some in my pocket for later. The stromboli was amazing and way heavier than I thought it would be but you would be surprised how much you can eat when you put your mind to it.
For appetizers we ordered the crispy soft shell crab and the mozzarella in carrozza. I didn’t think food could be this good. You read the one line description, it sounds interesting. Then it comes out you take your first bite and you are instantly puzzled by what you are tasting. I looked back down at my dish and then around the restaurant and to borrow from Emeril- BAM! There is a party in your mouth and you never want it to stop. Half way through as we agreed we switch dishes. Once again I was mesmerized.
Then out came the show stopper. Folks this is what that beautiful spaghetti looks like!
Believe me when I tell you this is the best you will ever eat and not just in terms of spaghetti. The pasta noodles are heavier and richer, and that sauce, God the sauce! What is funny is that it wasn’t until I was doing research for this blog that I knew the episode name Ted Allen was on mentioning Scarpetta. I just always had him in my mind along with that imagine of the perfectly shaped portion. Sauced, I should have known.
The sauce is hard to describe, it is sort of has a pepper taste but not really. It is certainly not your average marinara sauce. It is thick and creamy almost like a vodka sauce but without that flavor. I am now drooling all over the keyboard and I just had a snack. I hate when my own rules work against me!!
This dish was so good that even though I was beyond too full (from all the bread no doubt) to finish the entire thing, I kept eating. I know a normal person thinks they would have stopped or taken it home but trust me you wouldn’t have. You would have done what I did and shoveled the entire thing down until it was a mere memory. A fulfilling, happy, dreamy memory that makes me tear up when I think about it.
Not to be outdone, our second entrée was the duck and foie gras ravioli. I do not usually like the taste of duck but this was completely different. This too had richness about it and a complicated sauce on it. I could not figure it out but it was delicious. Do not let my limited remarks about this dish fool you, it was a one of a kind, eat your heart out dish. I just happen to take one bite of this and then inhale my pasta. Pasta I had been daydreaming about for a very long time.
Unfortunately we were too full for dessert. That broke my heart. They all sounded so original and I don’t even know what I would have chosen. I would like to say I would go back and just have desserts but that won’t happen. I am going back for my stromboli, spaghetti, and whatever desserts my companions and I will try. I guess it is nice to add a little mystery to my life.
After my visit at Scarpetta I felt like someone who just met their idol. Even though I left feeling more than satisfied and victorious in getting to cross it off my list, I will always want more. I guess that’s the key to success; always leaving them wanting more. Well played Scott Conant.
“Scarpetta represents the pure pleasure of savoring a meal down to its very last taste.”
Boy does it ever.
For all things Scarpetta and Scott Conant:
For the Sullivan Street Bakery:
For Best Thing I Ever Ate:
For Best Thing I Ever Made: