Thu Sep 25 2008
Photograph: Jeff Gurwin
While it’s true that pesto is as ubiquitous as a fanny-pack-clad tourist in Little Italy, good pesto is a considerably rarer find. The recipe for classic Ligurian sauce is barely even a recipe—just take some fresh basil, pine nuts, olive oil, Parmesan and a bit of garlic, crush with a mortar and pestel and season—and yet more often than not, the result fails to add up to the quality of its parts. Which is why one bite of the pappardelle al pesto ($16) at Felice Wine Bar (1166 First Ave at 64th St, 212-593-2223) is a revelation of almost Proustian proportions. It doesn’t so much engage the palate as transport it to a mythical time and place when life was good and simple and smelled only of fresh basil. The pesto’s pungent, earthy flavor, says Felice’s general manager, Matt Harding, owes its power to those five simple ingredients, which are ably cushioned by the fat, tender ribbons of pappardelle made in chef Simone Parisotto’s kitchen. The dish is classified as a first course, but really, that’s selling it a little short: After dispatching that last noodle down your throat, all you’ll require is a glass of wine to wash it down and then, maybe, a nap.