The case for lasagna is being made on Clark Street, at a modest trattoria schooled in the art of pasta and unafraid to harness the power of cheese. Here the sheets of pasta are thin to the point of near translucence, layered painstakingly with lavish amounts of béchamel sauce and beef ragù. The dish arrives burning-hot from the oven, the lasagna square draped in a sheath of blistered Parmesan. It’s not something you chew so much as allow to melt in your mouth, a black hole of carbs, meat and butter into which all of life’s uncertainties momentarily evanesce. Sometimes, you really can eat your feelings.
The lasagna is far and away the best dish I tried at Riccardo Enoteca, the spawn of across-the-street Riccardo Trattoria, one of those prototypical neighborhood gems that no one talks about and yet retains a two-hour wait for a table on a Wednesday night. (I don’t say that as a broad assumption; that was the time quoted when I tried to get in last week.) The Enoteca is more casual—not to mention much easier to get into—and serves simpler, rustic dishes, with a focus on pizzas. These are rectangular and are almost closer to foccacia, the crust both sturdy and wonderfully airy, yet the toppings on the one I ordered amounted to little more than an outrageous amount of bland fontina and mozzarella cheese in which a few mushrooms managed to hide.
A few non-cheese–swaddled items do, however, exist here, such as the octopus Genovese, which (how to put this kindly?) is not the most rubbery squid I’ve had, and specials like a very simple preparation of cod, with capers and roasted potatoes. These dishes are profoundly unmemorable, and if Riccardo Enoteca is as regularly understaffed as it was on my visit, service will be sweet but very slow. What I’m saying is to approach with caution, to order the cioccolatissimo (spoiler alert: it’s a molten chocolate cake) and to join me in a newfound appreciation for the oft-maligned lasagna.