Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bits & Morsels: The Trilby, Stivale, Rockography.

The crispy pork rigatoni special at The Trilby.

by Erin Frankel

In the congested, crowded, and at times ominously hot city we live in, it’s a godsend when you find that secluded al fresco spot; something behind the restaurant, surrounded by trees and high walls or man-made greenery. You know, that perfect respite for the outdoorsy, price-conscious, food and cocktail enthusiast on a hot summer evening. That's the vibe we were going for this week.

The Trilby

The Don Cobbler.
The Cowboy Martini.
The Trilby is the third eating establishment at the modern Cooper Square hotel on the Bowery. It is a bit more casual than its successors, Table 8 and Faustina. The interior has a sexy, loungy, nightlife quality, but the beautiful outdoor garden area in the back is the spot to enjoy the restaurant’s unique cocktails and delicious European cuisine.

The garden area is shaded by trees and the hotel’s high glass walls, lit by small votives at each of the wooden tables. It is quiet and quite romantic. The outdoor space does close at 10pm, so be sure to come here on the earlier side.

The service at Trilby is impeccable. The waiters are concerned about your well being and are extremely well versed, down to each ingredient in both their cocktails and entrees.

The Trilby mixes a number of exciting cocktail concoctions, so I definitely recommend starting with one. The Cowboy Martini, a sweet, refreshing drink made with Bombay dry gin, fresh mint and lemon juice; and the Don Cobbler, a dry cocktail made with Don Julio reposado, Laird’s applejack, ginger brew, and a sweet hint of peach Schnapps, are my two favorites.

The Trilby specializes in small plates that are meant for sharing, with a number of “snacks” for a table to choose from.

Three of the more popular choices are the local radishes dipped in a light, mustard-flavored anchoiade sauce, the 6-minute eggs with steamed spinach on a crispy piece of toast, and the buffalo mozzarella on a roasted tomato crostini. I also suggest sharing the warm artichoke dip served with crunchy layers of toast (my favorite). This dip even tastes better once you find out how healthy it is; it is made with yogurt and tofu!

The Trilby also offers some delicious entrees if you want to go larger. The roasted organic chicken is crisp on the outside and tender inside, served with a mellifluent side of truffle-smashed potatoes and seasoned Brussels sprouts. I also suggest going with the nightly specials. We took our own advice and were awarded with a crunchy pork rigatoni in a light olive oil sauce.

The Trilby
The Cooper Square Hotel
25 Cooper Square

Local radishes with anchoiade.
6-minute eggs on toast.
Buffalo mozzarella with roasted tomato crostini.
Warm artichoke dip with country toast.
Roasted beet and watercress salad with french feta and walnuts.
Roasted organic chicken with truffle-smashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts.
Chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice-cream.

Bobby Werhane (of Spasso, dell’anima, and l’artusi) has transformed his large West Village restaurant (formerly Choptank) into two restaurants. One is the more casual and inexpensive Caffe Muzio, and the other, Stivale, is his more upscale Italian restaurant. I suggest dodging the rather stuffy white-tablecloth interior of Stivale and walking straight to the back where you will find a quiet, displaced outdoor patio, isolating you from the street noise with a tall wooden fence. Grab a glass of rose and after 15 minutes, you will feel at peace.
The outdoor garden at Stivale.
Stivale is a find, a rare local neighborhood restaurant worth a visit if only for the quality of its food. Chef Michael Berardino (of ‘inoteca and dell’anima) has created a menu that adheres to a simple yet fresh approach to ingredients, flavors, and textures that makes Southern Italian cuisine most appealing in the summer. There are a number of small plates on the menu that leave you feeling light-footed, yet satisfied. The crispy aracini, a small saffron risotto ball with fresh mozzarella; the hand-pulled mozzarella with prosciutto topped with a dollop of sea salt and sprinkled with extra virgin olive oil; the spring beets accompanied by fennel, orange, ricotta, and bottargo; and the arugula salad topped with soft pecorino, strawberries and almonds with a light lemon olive-oil dressing are all primo examples.

While Stivale is relatively focused on small, uncomplicated fresh fare, Berardino offers up some quality pasta dishes, fresh seafood and meat courses, and seasonal vegetable sides. The cavatelli ‘ncatenati with pancetta, egg and rosemary was delish and refreshing, and the pollo alla diavlo, a spiced roasted chicken topped with garlic and sultanas, accompanied by broccoli rabe, was also a perfectly light and succulent entrée option. If you opt for a side, I recommend the honey-roasted fennel, which is seasoned with chilies and a citrus sauce.

308 Bleecker St., nr. Grove St.
The crispy aracini.
Hand-pulled mozzarella with prosciutto.
Arugula salad.
Spring beets with fennel, orange, ricotta, and bottargo.
Pollo alla diavlo.
Honey-roasted fennel, seasoned with chilies and a citrus sauce.
The cavatelli ‘ncatenati with pancetta, egg and rosemary.
What else I ate this weekend:


Rockography dubs itself as a “musically-inclined restaurant focused on comfort food." Well, I would amplify that by ten. The music here is incredibly loud and all bent on rock and roll, and the food, well, is incredibly heavy. There’s deep-fried PB&J accompanied by an old-school pint of milk, a rolled cheeseburger with caramelized onions and Russian dressing in a deep-fried dough, and a grilled cheese with your simple but classic (perfectly) melted American cheese, tomato and bacon.

I attempted to eat a bit healthier with both the Big Bowl Cobb salad with grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs, avocado, bacon and a spicy dressing; and the bad ass veggie burger with mushrooms, fontina, onion rings, pickles and a “special sauce,” but both mitigative options still left me feeling weighed down.

504 6th Ave

Rolled cheeseburger with caramelized onions, cheese, tomato, romaine lettuce, and Russian dressing.
Big Bowl Cobb with grilled chicken, hard boiled eggs, avocado, bacon, spicy dressing.
A side of Mac & Cheese.
Char Grilled Skirt Steak Sandwich with caramelized onions, mushrooms, jack cheese.
Bad Ass Veggie Burger with mushrooms, fontina, onion rings, pickles, and special sauce.
Perfectly melted grilled cheese, tomato and bacon.
Photographs by Erin Frankel.
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