Saturday, May 16, 2009

Review: Branzino

After failing at securing last-minute reservations for Pumpkin, just a mere four blocks from our new house where my in-laws were visiting, we decided to give Italian BYO Branzino a shot. Situated just north of Spruce on 17th Street, right across the street from the lamentably forgettable La Fotnana della Città, Branzino's one of those places I've walked by hundreds of times but never considered going to. But having been around for several years now, I figured they must be doing something right ...

The good news is that they are. The interior, though not huge, isn't cramped either, though it was a little noisy. The back room where we sat had its walls painted with color and subject matter that gave the room a distinct "cruise ship" vibe. There's outdoor dining too, but the evening was a little nippy for that.

There's a nice assortment of standard mid-range Italian appetizers, all priced in the $6-$10 range. I went for the grilled squid, which was wonderfully tender and flavorful, though I would have liked a little less lemon/oil/squid juice dressing sitting beneath it. Lauren's endive salad with apples, walnuts and gorgonzola sported an interesting cross-cut endive technique and was otherwise light and refreshing.

My entree was the papardelle with rabbit. The pasta was great and the red wine sauce was nice; the rabbit lacked a little bit of character, as it was all cut up into small pale chunks that didn't taste too far off from chicken. Overall I'm not complaining, especially for a pretty reasonable $15. Lauren got the Squid Ink Pappardelle with shellfish.  The pasta was freshly made and excellent, although the shrimp and scallops a wee bit overcooked. 

My mother-in-law ordered the namesake fish, and though I didn't get a chance to taste it, I will say that it was filleted tableside in a most precise manner.

So add Branzino to the list of worth-a-visit Italian BYOs in this city. Though your socks will not be knocked off, it's a reliable, reasonably-priced standby for your dining out rotation.

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