Tuesday, October 28, 2008


1531 14th Ave

What's the most rustic thing in the world? Is it a rocking chair made of rough- hewn pine logs? A leather wine flagon? A scarecrow? A cabin in a Bob Ross painting? An overturned, antique wheelbarrow in a front yard with flowers growing in it? Bread made by orphans? Anything that comes from Tuscany? Sarah Palin?

Answer: Spinasse is, in fact, the single most rustic item in the world. It's somehow even more rustic than the screenplay I wrote about the quest for the world's most rustic sandwich. It's so fucking rustic.

Spinasse takes reservations, but when I called they were booked, so I dutifully waited in line outside for a seat at the bar. I'd actually recommend NOT getting reservations so you CAN sit at the bar. A bearded, vested gentleman (who I presume is the owner) was methodically making the restaurant's fresh pasta for the night, right there on the bar in front of us. He was kind enough to answer questions while he shaped the pasta with different decorative rollers and cutters. I had tons of questions about his pasta tools. There are tons of rustic pasta tools on the walls inside Spinasse, and unlike at Bucca di Beppo, they aren't just for “kitsch”: those crazy pasta savants use every one. Even the one that looks like a homonculus. Even the one that looks like a speculum.

While we chatted with the owner, the waitress brought out 2 kinds of crostini. One was spread with ricotta and topped with a cherry pepper which had been stuffed with anchovy paste and a caper. The ricotta was light and fluffy, and the stuffed pepper was tangy and spicy. The other crostini was spread with a rabbit liver and porcini pate with a drip of thick balsamic vinegar. The pate was rich and smooth. The balsamic tasted like grape jelly. A fucking fine amuse bouche, and it was FREE.

Spinasse has a fantastic prix fixe menu with lots of options: we chose the “Menu Principale,” which allows you to choose 2 appetizers, 1 pasta, and 1 entree for $47 (per person). The first appetizer (known as “antipasti” in the rustic Italian tongue) was anchovy fillets in Piemontese sauce. The sauce was green and tasted like pesto, and was dotted with bits of crumbled boiled egg yolk. The anchovies were the Platonic ideal of anchovies: salty, fishy, and everything else an anchovy is supposed to be.

The second appetizer was a fennel and beet salad. This was a pretty standard beet salad, with chunks of roasted chioggia beets, slivers of fennel, and chopped fennel frond. The beets were creamy but the whole thing was cloyingly sweet. It could have used a vinaigrette or something to balance the flavor.

The pasta dish was an enormous platter of maltagliatti, which is literally “badly cut.” These are basically random shapes. How very rustic! Everyone knows that rustic things are usually random, like a giant roadside ball of twine, or a Stonehenge made of tits. The random pasta had razor thin slivers of porcini mushrooms, olive oil, black pepper, and maybe a few shreds of romano or reggiano cheese. It was also without a doubt the BEST PASTA I HAVE EVER EATEN. I'd almost go so far as to say it's the best thing I've ever put in my mouth (at least until I figure out how to suck my own dick). It was a huge platter, and I didn't think we could eat it all, but no: that maltagliatti was astonishingly light. The pasta didn't even taste like it was made of flour: it was as if they somehow condensed sunlight into random edible shapes. It was so thin the individual pasta pieces were translucent. A huge plate of pasta went down like your mom, and if it was the goal of Spinasse's vested owner to create a pasta to make the ghosts of all the Caesars themselves weep with envy for the living, then mission accomplished.

In case you didn't understand the main idea of all the aforementioned hyperbole, the maltagliatti was a tough act to follow. But the crafty insane artisans at Spinasse obviously know this so they played it conservatively with the secondi: a simple, roasted rabbit. The rabbit was tender, juicy, and farm raised, and was smothered with a menagerie of roasted red and yellow sweet bell peppers. No, it wasn't as good as the maltagliatti. But does it have to be? Does anything?

Dessert was a roasted Bosc pear with whipped cream and honey. The pear was soft, sweet, and spiced. The cream was creamy (I suppose). The honey had a complex flavor, with all kinds of notes, but I was still too distracted thinking about the pasta to concentrate on the flavor of the honey, so I suppose I'll have to go back. But if I go back, then I'll again be too flabbergasted by the maltagliatti to pay attention to the honey, again. What a terrible problem to have.

Usually when people say that something is “rustic,” they mean “crappy.” But Spinasse clearly bucks this trend. Those motherfuckers are mad, driven, and intense about pasta: they're the Colonel Kurtz of conchiglietti, the Beethoven of bucatini, or the something else of something else that begins with the same letter. So you can stick that up your rustic ass. And by calling your ass “rustic” this time I really DO mean “crappy.”

Rating: 9 rustic farmhouses inhabited by anti- government kooks out of 10

Cascina Spinasse on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Agree with you on this place - and sitting at the bar would keep you from bumping hips and elbows at the tightly packed tables. You might like that, but not when your neighbors are uptight and boring.

The chicory salad with marinated lamb was the better choice, though we did not find the beets too sweet - just earthy and perfectly cooked with hidden fennel, so maybe the prep changed on our night.


Surly Gourmand said...


I agree that Spinasse's patrons are uptight and boring. I was only there for 5 minutes when I overheard someone bitching because the waiter didn't seat their baby in a particular spot at the table that they wanted. Parents in the 1970's knew that you don't take infants to fancy restaurants; somehow that knowledge has been lost to society.

As for the beet salad, when exactly did you have dinner at Spinasse? Beets get sweeter as winter approaches, so if you went there in August or July (or whenever they opened), the beets in your salad may have been less sweet than the ones I had in October. I'll try the chicory salad next time but I don't think it was on the menu when we went.

Thanks for a civilized and thoughtful post (what a change of pace).


Your Friend the Surly Motherfucking Gourmand