- scene: Cozy front room with private nooks for larger tables; larger back room with retractable roof for al fresco dining in the summer and fireplace dining in the colder months; tables in the bar area get a little loud and a decent amount of traffic walking by
- sip: mainly italian wine list; don't expect much help from the waitstaff with the vino, but each wine has some descriptive wording below for you to better figure out what you want
- savor: hot stuffed peppers; trofie al proscuitto; Dora's meatballs; chicken
- sit: this is a great date place, and also good for large groups
- spend: $$
- address: 240 West 14th Street, between 7th and 8th
- phone number: 212-229-1818
- website: www.crisporestaurant.com
Crispo is like a song that you forgot how much you like until you hear it randomly on the radio. Often times you settle on the song because there is nothing else that you want to listen to on the other stations, and then part way through you find yourself smiling and giving a full on performance in your car. For us, we often head to Crispo because it is close to our house, we love Italian food, and we are just tired of finding some place else to go. But as we look at the menu and start to narrow down our large list of delicious choices, our excitement grows, remembering how good it can be. By the end we are smiling, if not giving a full performance…
The truth is that Crispo is a fantastic place to have in your neighborhood, and it is also a clutch spot for meeting a group. The service is not flawless, but the atmosphere is highly welcoming and enjoyable, and the food is satisfying. Whenever I am going on a long trip and panic about the lack of Italian food at my destination, I head to Crispo for a proper send-off. To start, they have a great selection of little nibbles that you can mix and match, including meats and cheeses, fried veggies, etc, as well as larger meat/cheese/ composition appetizers. A lot of these revolve around prosciutto, so they are all solid bets in my book. The prosciutto with smoked mozzarella and polenta is a signature, and is delicious, even if you are like me and equate polenta with baby food. The pastas are served in large portions, and while not cooked perfectly al dente, they are still really enjoyable. The Trofie al proscuitto is my favorite, with the interesting texture of the pasta soaking up the light sauce, and the nice addition of peas and prosciutto. The pomodoro was a little heavier than I wanted it to be, not the sweet, light tomato dish that I had in mind, but was enjoyable none the less. The meatballs and spaghetti are often a special, and in the this meatball heavy town, they are still enjoyable, especially on a Sunday night. They taste truly homemade and are straight-forward and delicious, without a gimmick in sight. For heartier fare, the crisp chicken al la diavlo is nicely presented and satisfying, and the veal dishes have lots of flavor, if not the thinnest veal in town. The brussels sprouts are offered as an appetizer, but they are pretty sweet and substantial, so it is a good idea to have them served alongside your main dishes, like a side. Desserts are standard fare, but satisfying, if you still have room.
A night at Crispo is easy with good conversation and plenty of wine. Enjoy the atmosphere, and don’t get too technical while dissecting the food or the service. Because at the end of the day you don’t really care about the training of the person behind that forgotten song on the radio, you just want to share it with someone else.