Perla (Greenwich Village)
Perla earned two stars from Pete Wells of The New York Times. The review, which was published in mid-May, described the restaurant as serving a “swaggering red-blooded version of Italian food”. With that in mind, I selected Perla as my June Dinner Club pick. Now I know first-hand what all of the outstanding reviews are about, and they’re well deserved.
On Thursday, Mel, Michelle, Aimee, Traci and I met up at Perla for 6:15 reservations. In addition to Dinner Club, we were also celebrating Mel’s gold medal win at a recent sprint triathlon. Yes, gold at a triathlon, complete with a 3-mile sprint to the finish line. The girl is in shape and a natural athlete. Michelle was literally moved to tears by Mel’s win. Then she realized we were talking about a triathlon, not the upcoming Ironman that Mel is also competing in. Still, this is an amazing accomplishment. Congrats Mel and all the best with the Ironman in less than 3 weeks.
Now back to Perla. The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, with great 80s dance tunes playing in the background (unless you’re in the bathroom, in which case the music comes thru loud and clear, prompting you to bust a move). The staff is friendly and the service top notch. Every dish that we had was delicious. Only Michelle had a mediocre experience and, ironically, it was with the Vitello Tonnato. I say ironically because that’s one of the dishes that Mr. Wells praised. Michelle was expecting more tuna flavor, but as Mr. Wells explains, “meat is the point of this dish.” I loved it and finished what was left over. Here are the other dishes that I either ordered or tasted.
Braised octopus with oven-dried tomatoes, eggplant and fettunta - HIGHLY RECOMMEND: if you like octopus, get this dish. The octopus is tender, the oven-dried tomatoes and eggplant add rich flavors and the fettunta just melts in your mouth. I love octopus and I appreciated that the octopus was the star of this dish. I rank this right up there with the smoked octopus at FISHTAG (which is my all-time favorite octopus dish).
Whole roasted branzino with asparagus, yogurt & brown butter zabaglione - MUST HAVE: For our main course, Michelle and I went with our server’s recommendation. WOW! The fish is cooked perfectly and the zabaglione – which is made with yogurt – adds a rich, sweet and tangy flavor. Mixed with the vegetables, there was a serious party going on in my mouth. I was so engrossed by the flavors that I didn’t even ask Michelle what she thought of it.
Chicken Alla Diavola (for 2) - HIGHLY RECOMMEND: Traci and Aimee shared this dish and we all tasted it. “It’s not that hot” was the first comment pretty much everyone made. I think it was Michelle who said the heat “hits the front of your mouth, not the back.” That was the perfect description. The dish is spicy but the heat is just one of a multitude of smokey, charred flavors. I was curious to compare it to the garlic chicken at Locanda Verde. Both are delicious but with very different flavors. This dish is $65 which is quite steep. After all, it’s chicken topped with charred scallions, not caviar.
24-Hour Steak with Escarole, Funghi Misti, Potato Puree & Bone Marrow Agrodolce - HIGHLY RECOMMEND: I only tasted the steak, which Mel had ordered on the rare side, and it was mouth watering delicious. The only reason I’m not rating it a “must have” is because it was a tad chewy.
All in all, it was a great dinner. Next time Ofelia and Jeff are in town, I know where I’ll be recommending for dinner – I just hope we can get reservations closer to 8 p.m.