Everything about Bar Romantica nods to old-world New York – the Italian-leaning menu and plush banquettes, the warm wood walls, the simple drinks list. It obviously sets lots of expectations with the name, though that’s not entirely their fault (they inherited “Romantica” from the previous owners). The eatery may not scream romance – aside from the heart-shaped table – but it does evoke a certain lust towards the kind of hospitality it's hearkening back to.
This is particularly true when seated at the bar – perfect for pretending you’re cooling your heels at a Manhattan dive. Being in the hot seat has perks too, like having the waitstaff’s full attention. Service here is quick and cordial in just the right amounts with drink top-ups at the ready.
The wine list is fairly traditional with a few new-school nattys by the glass and an even fresher, funkier extended offering (plus plenty of hard-to-find Euro pours). The food straddles a similar line between old-school and new, keeping things at once consistent and exciting even if a few dishes fall flat.
The handmade pasta is one of the venue’s biggest claims to fame and the quality is there. If you’ve ever had hard, store-bought casarecce, you’ll delight in the soft bounciness of Bar Romantica’s fresh (and very, very long) versions, which come with “winter pesto” and stracciatella.
If reviewing the pasta alone it would be an easy five stars but this particular dish lacks cohesion. The sauce is too oily and thin to stick to the slick pasta, instead sitting like a broth beneath it and requiring a spoon to awkwardly steal sips between bites.
The pizza, on the other hand, is a sound choice. The dough achieves the elusive balance of char, chew and crisp. Toppings like broccoli, garlic, scamorza are generous while still maintaining an Italian-style minimalism. And at $24, the price is fair.
If you can manage, save room for the hefty slab of tiramisù, which has understandably been making the rounds on Instagram. The slice is just as stunning in real life and tasted nearly as good as it looked. The cream to ladyfinger ratio sways heavily towards the former, but by our standards, that’s no crime. A little more booze would have been nice but perhaps that’s what the digestive offering is for.
Despite its flaws, it’s hard not to have a soft spot in your heart for Bar Romantica. Aesthetically and conceptually, it’s one of the few spots left where the old and new-gen converge in a way that’s nothing short of charming.