While I was attending one of the last fashion shows in New York for the summer, and with fall fashion week 2019 to start in just a few short weeks I thought that there would be no surprises left for the summer. However after hanging out briefly with one of the designers after the show (Yes, I was heading to review another restaurant) he made me promise to stop by the “fashion show after party” when I was done.
Quite a bit later when we arrive (myself and Jean Germain, my Logistical Executive) at Aloft in Harlem to mingle and engage in conversation with the models, designers, press members, and photographers. As we were about to leave a young women boldly walks up and hands me her business card, and say’s to me “I saw you at the fashion show, and thought that you are very handsome.” Give me a call and let’s go out on a date.”
The women explaining that she has to leave the party now, walked out the door after saying good night. Gene, turning to me “saying that was brave of her” as we ourselves prepared to leave. Impressed by her semi-professional approach, calm and confident up front honesty, I did call her about three days later, and we agreed to go out to dinner in her neighborhood (East Village) and I would review the restaurant while on our date (also I must pick the restaurant), which she was excited about.
Now I used to go out to eat in the East Village quite a bit before the Harlem restaurant boom, and it’s been awhile. While doing my “due diligence” and research I came across a very popular Italian place with a price point that makes one pause a bit. I had to find out why their brunch and dinner is so popular with NYU students (aside for their prices) and locals (and non-locals alike).
So my future restaurant review/date and I settled on Brunch at San Marzano Pasta Fresca. But it was two days away and my curiosity got the better of me, so I stopped by this Italian pasta place for a drink at the bar to test the Chardonnay, and check out the vibe and service before the dinner rush. I was greeted lukewarmly by the women at the bar as she placed a menu before me, and I explained that I will just be having a drink, (their one and only Chardonnay on the drink menu). I got the feeling the staff was a bit hippy-ish with a little self occupied posing. The woman behind the bar asked me if I would like anything else, and I explained that I would return in a couple of days for brunch to do a restaurant review (I felt her mood change instantly) and paid my bill and departed.
Now anything can happen in two days, and so it did, due to prior commitments, errands, and mercury retrograde our Italian brunch date had to be pushed back to a dinner date, (which is fine with me) but I did so much wanted to try the brunch.
When I returned to San Marzano, I got there a little earlier than my date, and asked for a table for two for dinner (they do not take reservations). The hostess seemed overly nice and told me that there will be about a twenty minute wait, which was fine as my date had not yet arrived. So I took my seat at the bar (the same seat as the last time I was there) and ordered a Chardonnay. After about ten minutes I receive a text from my date that she will be “arriving shortly”. So while I wait, sipping on this better than decent Chardonnay: Pomino, (which had floral and pear notes with a buttery finish). I decided to take in the atmosphere and feel the vibe of this strange romantic lighting in a rustic-modern décor Italian restaurant, (it certainly didn’t look like a Italian place).
My date finally arrives and greets me energetically, she walks up to me at the bar wearing the classic “little black dress” and furry fringed sandals in a hot pink I think, with her braids tied in a pony tail (it sounds awful I know, but she pulled it of so effortlessly). She sits by me at the bar and ordered a Chardonnay as well (off to a good start I’d say). After a little idle chit-chat we were told that our table was ready (and my role as fashion critic ends, and the role as food critic and date begins). So we had to clear our tap at the bar before sitting down at our table (they don’t transfer taps from the bar to tables) which was a little bit annoying, but nothing major.
We ordered the Tegamino to share as an Appetizer: Breaded Eggplant, Mozzarella, Tomato Sause. We got two slaps of breaded eggplant wrapped in mozzarella cheese and tomato sause. It was more than enough to share between us and the taste was also very good. It was cooked just right.
(My dinner companion/Date was not only enjoying the food and wine)
After talking about politics, food, wine and people watching (people were watching us as well from the tables outside) I was finding myself having a wonderful time, my restaurant review/dinner companion/date was not only helpful, but also displayed the lady-like patience which I admire for allowing me to do a review on our date.
Dinner is now served (moment of truth) Now at this Italian restaurant Pasta is the name of the game, as we got to choose our own pasta (and shapes) for our dishes. We both ordered the same pasta but for different dishes. I had the Shrimp Scampi: Garlic, Butter, white wine, lemon, and parsley, and she ordered the Butternut Squash & Sausage: Sage, basil, white wine reduction, and pecorino. The pasta we both chose was the Fusilli: corkscrew shaped pasta.
Now I’ve had some very outstanding shrimp scampi homemade and restaurant made, and this could compete with a few of them. The only thing was that the pasta was just a “wee bit” undercooked, and was a bit dry at the top, which all disappeared when I brought the butter sauce to the top and tasted it on the well cooked shrimp (all four of them) and it was a shrimp scampi that I enjoyed a bit much.
My date’s dish was also quite tasty, done with all of the right amounts of it’s few ingredients and she enjoyed my dish as well. Our waiter was very attentive, and she was on spot in refilling our water (served in mason jars) and refreshing our wine.
I can see now how they keep such a low price point (the place is always packed) on the food and still deliver a satisfying and tasty dinner for $10.00 (my dish was $12, but well worth it!). Appetizers and Salads our $8.00 while the Fresh Pasta is $10.00. The Panini is $9.00, while their Desserts are $7.00 and a glass of wine will run you from $6.00-$7.00 while a bottle does not go over $30.00. I was told that during brunch there is line down the block to eat here.
The ambience and dim lighting for dinner is definitely romantic and this place with it’s affordable dinner and drinks with decent quality wine and food. I recommend this spot to hang out with friends for drinks, and very nice and romantic for a dinner date. San Marzano’s is a good restaurant all around!
San Marzano Pasta Fresca is located on East 7th Street and Second Ave in the East Village.
Oh yeah, the date went quite well, so we headed to the Library of Distilled Spirits at the Hyatt for a night cap where we both agreed to go on a second date.