Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Eolo: A Chelsea Sicilian Eatery That Will Make You Say “Oh”!

By: Anne M. Raso

Financefoodie.com loves to check out Italian eateries, but we have yet to check out one that is purely Sicilian. It’s perhaps the most classic of Italian cuisines, at least in the minds of American foodies, with Tuscan food being a close runner-up. That means they had to prove themselves to us with classic red sauce that won’t quit and lovely rustic dishes of all sorts—plus cannoli that could make you cry. Eolo is small and casual, with floor-to-ceiling front glass doors that open up so diners can eat al fresco. We went on a perfect early fall night and it never got chilly, even at 8:30 PM—so we were quite fortunate. Service is courteous and the food comes out quickly. Besides specialty cocktails, there is a special Sicilian wine list available ($12-13 per glass) and wonderful Italian soda like Orangiata and Aranciata available ($4 per bottle).
Nsalata Grigliata
We started off with a salad although by no means were we trying to be healthy. The Nsalata Grigliata (radicchio, arugula, roasted beets, grilled corn & asparagus, strained yogurt with dried thyme & sesame and grilled bread, $14) was lovely. The produce tasted as if it had just been picked at a local farm a few hours earlier and probably was. It had the naturally slightly bitter taste of a Sicilian salad but the sweetness of the beets and corn was the perfect opposite to make it a near perfect “lettuce experience”!
Sfinciuni di lu Iornu
We then shared Sfinciuni di lu Iornu (Sicilian style warm foccacia with mushrooms, caramelized onions and radicchio, $6). The toppings change daily and it’s the greatest bargain on the menu. Two people could definitely get full on this foccaccia dish, a shared entrée and a couple of desserts. The crust had a super crunchy bite to it unavailable in what we consider “New York Style pizza.”
Pasta Three Styles
We could not go to a true Sicilian restaurant and not try the pasta, so we got half portions of three that seemed interesting. We got three ¾-cup portions in one large white ceramic serving dish with three compartments. The three pastas were cooked just a little on the al dente side and each was very unique: Cavateddi Agroduci (cavatelli with cauliflower ragù, caramelized onion, currants, toasted pine nuts, parmigiano, $9 half portion/18 full portion), Ravioli cu Sazizza (radicchio, ricotta & mascarpone stuffed ravioli with broccoli rabe, a spicy lamb sausage, oyster mushrooms & dried cherries laced with port, $12/24) and Spachetti D’Ortica Cu Melanzane (house-made Stinging Nettle spaghetti with eggplants, Jersey tomatoes, pesto and ricotta, $12/24). We liked that the Eolo chefs did not make their pasta too firm (this is a constant problem, at least for us, at prestigious Italian eateries) and the stuffing in the ravioli was one of the high points of the entire meal for us. The cauliflower on the cavatelli was perfectly crispy and sautéed in olive oil—it was the first tie we ever had cauliflower and pasta together, and they went together perfectly. We are also happy to report that the homemade lamb sausage on the ravioli was so mild that it made a believer even out of one of the non-lamb eaters at our table. The ricotta cheese on both the ravioli and the Stinging Nettle spaghetti tasted as if it was made in the back room and was possibly the freshest we had ever tasted. The Stinging Nettle spaghetti was honestly a new experience for us—we had never even heard of Stinging Nettle before. This special house-made spaghetti tasted very similar to spinach pasta, which we love and the chunky tomatoes mixed with pesto and ricotta made a memorable sauce worth going back for.
Carni cu Pepperonata
 Next, we wanted to share a classic meat dish so we selected Carni cu Pepperonata (grilled grass-fed hangar steak drizzled with garlic, lemon & herb extra virgin olive oil, served with pepperonata & green olive potato gallette, $27). The meat was marinated in olive oil and a variety of Italian herbs and was tender. We got the hangar steak (about a six-to-seven ounce portion) perfectly medium rare and we barely needed a knife to cut it. The green olive potato galette was a foodie’s dream of what “hash browns” would be if they fell asleep and dreamed that they woke up in Sicily. They were tender on the inside and perfectly crunchy on the outside and the green olives were the perfect tangy accent.
We weren’t afraid to “pig out” on dessert so we selected three: Coppa di Gelato al Tiramisu (a tiramisu sundae made with an espresso brownie, marsala marshmallows, coffee fudge, house-made vanilla & coffee gelato with whipped cream, $11), Cannoli (hand-filled ricotta cream cannoli with candied orange, chocolate brulee and pistachio, $11) and Sfinci (doughnuts with vanilla-orange pastry cream and a bitter chocolate dipping sauce, $10). The Coppa di Gelato was a huge portion that two or three people can easily share and the bits of homemade Marsala marshmallows, homemade waffle cone type wafers and espresso brownies in the gelato created intensely crunchy and chewy textures amongst the creaminess of the gelato. It was Sundae Heaven, Sicilian style! Just for the record, each cannolo was about 3 inches long and there’s two in one portion. We’re overjoyed to say that they are truly done the old-school Southern Italian way with candied fruit and pistachio bits—commercial cannoli available in New York City today just don’t include these important “little bits” and so they brought back great memories for someone who grew up in an Italian family and had the “real thing” back in the day. The Sfinci “doughnuts” were like traditional sugar doughnut balls except for two things—there was a heavenly homemade orange cream filling and a bitter chocolate dipping sauce that included a touch of Kahlua. This is another dessert big enough for two or three people to share and the best “dippin’ doughnut” dessert we’ve ever had in any New York eatery, upscale or otherwise.
We suggest reservations for Eolo even though they are not mandatory; it seemed pretty crowded when we went there for a weeknight 7PM table. We strongly urge you to do one thing: leave enough room in your tummy to order all three desserts that we ordered!

190 Seventh Avenue at 21st Street
New York, NY 10001
(646) 225-6606
Eolo: Sicilia a Tavola on Urbanspoon
[Photos: Anne M. Raso]

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...