Food For Thought — April 11, 2014 at 11:20 am

Sorry Manhattan Valley, Arco Café’s One to Share

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Photo credit: Michael Tulipan

Photo credit: Michael Tulipan

There are some neighborhood joints that are just for the neighborhood. They’re go-to spots where locals-only can expect familiar food and faces, and, when all else fails, they’ll be there for you. Like suppertime security blankets.

Then there are those community gems that deserve more than just the usual folk. These outstanding holes-in-the-wall start as best-kept-secrets that eventually, by sheer talent, spill out onto the pages of food blogs and national newspapers. They become sites worthy of a pilgrimage, even if that pilgrimage is only a subway stop or two away.

Arco Café, a new Sardinian restaurant in Manhattan Valley is one of these. Despite it only being open for just over a month, I could tell by the hellos and how-are-yous exchanged between customers that Manhattan Valley’s residents are getting ready to call this place home away from home. But before they get too comfortable: the not-yet-a-secret’s out. This place is delicious enough for the masses.

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The appeal of Arco Café is in its casual familiarity, affordability (no dish costs more than $16) and great food. The latest endeavor from local restaurateur Sebastiano Cappitta, who also owns Buca around the corner, it boasts uncomplicated Sardinian fare from chef Giovanni Tenace.

The décor is understated, with a wooden bar, exposed brick, muted lighting and candlelit tables. It’s the place you go when all you want is heaps of al dente pasta, a bottle or two of Sardinian wine and an evening of much-needed conversation. But it’s put together enough to impress a date.

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Unsurprisingly, the best things on the menu are the traditional items. Come hungry and start with an appetizer: The Moscardini alla Diavola, or baby octopus with garlic and spicy tomato sauce, is a delicious and simple choice, while the Zuppetta Di Cozze, a mussel stew, was also a winner. Everything should be accompanied by the Pane Carasau, grilled Sardinian flat bread with olive oil and rosemary (that Arco Café does the best I’ve had anywhere), and washed down with a glass of Cannonau Di Sardegna, a full-bodied red wine, or Vermentino Di Sardegna, a floral white.

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For the pasta course (all homemade), it’s an unbreakable tie between the Maloreddos alla Campidanese, with sausage and tomato sauce, and the Puglian Cavatelli Broccoli Rabe e Salsiccia, a delicate balance of delicious greens, spicy sausage and ricotta stuffing. If you’re eager to try something new, go for the Culurgiones all’ Ogliastrina, minty potato dumplings reminiscent of perogies.

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Unless you can stomach another course, I would stop there and save whatever meager room you have for dessert. Food trend fanatics: resist only having the kale salad or grilled salmon with beets and kale. While they’re very good, they hold no candle to the rest of the menu and the semifreddo with amaretti and olive oil cake are way too good to pass up.

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Arco Café is a find. It may be the perfect neighborhood hotspot, but it’s also the perfect spot for anyone. Sorry locals, but I, and everyone else, will be going here again and again.

Arco Café is located at 886 Amsterdam Avenue.

Twisted Talk: Will you be checking out this new restaurant? What’s your go-to Sardinian spot in the city? Discuss below!


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2 Comments

  1. Such a great place. Loving it

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