Restaurant Review: Malatesta Trattoria

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My boyfriend, Aaron, came down from Toronto to New York City last weekend, arguably the hottest weekend of the summer. Those who have walked through NYC streets on 95 degree days know it feels like being trapped in former Mayor Bloomberg’s armpit for hours without relief. I didn’t want to subjugate him to this height of pain. Rather, we chose to camp out at home until the sun set (very Edward and Bella minus the pained expressions) and step out for dinner.

On Saturday night, we drove into the city without a particular plan. We dropped our respective sisters off to their friends and weighed our options. Thai? Indian? Mexican? I chose Italian. Italian for a date? I’m such an original! And in the village no less. But before I completely cut myself down, let me explain. I’d been wanting to try this place since February, when I’d made reservations and had to change plans last minute. The restaurant is called Malatesta Trattoria, owner of countless raving Yelp reviews and a spinach gnocchi I’ve been Jonesing for.

We walked down the European-reminiscent cobblestone roads of the village to the beautifully lit Malatesta Trattoria, which lives on 649 Washington Street. The wait, we were told, was 40 minutes. It only took 20 minutes for us to get seated outside, though the inside of this restaurant spills easily onto the sidewalk in the summertime. With the doors open, the whole front of the restaurant feels like it’s outside. The place is small – even by NYC standards – but feels intimate, and not in a forced way. With the twinkling lights, wine-lined walls, and soft music, it truly does feel like a European dinner party.

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Our waiter was a baseball-cap-and-cargo-pant-wearing, quiet man. He, like the other waiters, weren’t clothed in swanky outfits to blend into their ritzy environment. Rather, he was attentive when needed, absent just long enough to give us time to actually have a date, and genuinely friendly. Aaron and I have been pointed and laughed at at other restaurants in Manhattan (I’m looking at you, Da Mikele), so this was a huge plus for us.

Now for the main event: the food. I can’t speak for what Aaron got, as I’m a vegetarian, but it was a fettuccine with shrimp and red sauce and he described it as “the bomb dot edu.” This is high praise. He finished his plate in about five minutes. I, however, got the spinach gnocchi. My first thought when I put one in my mouth was “cozy.” The gnocchi was so soft and plush that it felt like a warm pillow in my mouth. Looking down at the plate full of little pillows filled me with chubby joy. The cream sauce could’ve used a little kick, but once I added crushed red pepper, it was perfect. The consistency was thick enough to feel rich, without the overwhelming glue-like consistency of bottled white sauce.

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The greatest thing about this place, however, was that we went for a date and that’s what we got. We ate with minimal interruption at a beautiful restaurant with medium-level music and great lighting. The girls next to me came for a “girl’s night out” (their words, not mine) and seemed to be as satisfied as we were. So if you’re looking for a night of little surprises, big plates, and no disappointments, go to Malatesta Trattoria.

Post and Photos by Nandini Ahuja.

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