The soulful Italian plates served at Via Carota, the first joint effort from chef power couple Jody Williams and Rita Sodi—at once rustic, sophisticated and heart-swelling—proves simple food can be anything but basic. The glass-fronted Grove Street gastroteca (named after the Tuscan thoroughfare where Sodi once lived) is a chestnut’s throw from West Village charmers Buvette and I Sodi, where, respectively, Williams and Sodi took the reins as downtown’s doyennes of comfort food done excellently.
Over the past decade, Jody Williams has established a serious food-industry following. At the tiny, Gallic-themed Buvette, she's got just enough space to feed a neighborhood following. Her self-consciously retro cooking is a showcase not of the chef's creativity but of her very good taste. Buvette is the sort of place where you pop in for a glass of wine and a snack and three hours later realize you've stayed for dinner.
Matt and Emily Hyland hit it out of the park when they opened their thin-crust, wood-fired pizza spot, Emily, in Clinton Hill in 2014. Three years later, the couple opened their first Manhattan location, taking over the former Blue Ribbon Bakery space in the West Village. Here, the Hylands offer Detroit-style grandma pies, as well as New York and New Haven styles fired in a century-old wood-burning oven.
This seasonal restaurant is anchored by both a brick- and a wood-oven. Most entreés are priced under 20 bucks, and the earthy cooking is top-notch. Marvelously light calamari comes in lemon-garlic sauce; chitarra all’aia mixes pasta with crushed walnuts, garlic, olive oil and Parmesan; fried Vermont veal is faultless. In the summer, the garage doors go up and the crowd of stylists, assistants, yuppies and West Village whatevers mob the corner from breakfast until last call.
When you finally make your way inside the elusive restaurant, floral wallpaper, red-velvet booths and a giant portrait of Peter Rabbit (after all the restaurant is named after him) generate the feeling of being tucked away in the Marais district of Paris. Chef Harold Moore perfects French brasserie cuisine offering comfort classics as well as bright takes on the revered cuisine.
Last we saw Daisuke Nakazawa, he was toiling over egg custard as the modest apprentice in the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi, humbled by the rigors of an 11-year stint under the world’s most distinguished sushi chef, Jiro Ono. The pupil is now the teacher at this sleek West Village sushi bar. For his daily changing omakase, Nakazawa swiftly sets each of the 20 or so perfect pieces on your plate in succession.
On the ground floor are tatami-style rooms; on the mezzanine are re-creations of a living room, dining room and library of a Japanese home from the Meiji Era. But the main dining room is where the action is: Diners sit at tables around a small pond under high ceilings. The menu changes frequently with seasonal specials. Try the sake and shochu flights (or wonderful original cocktails) and you’ll get an authentic Asian buzz, too.
Restaurateur Gabriel Stulman is an A-list impresario with a trio of hot eateries—including Joseph Leonard and Jeffrey's Grocery—clustered within a three-block West Village radius. Fedora, is the most chef-focused of the bunch, matching Stulman's trademark hospitality with destination-worthy cuisine. The food is eccentric, yes, but not so extreme you couldn't, or wouldn't, want to eat here twice a week.
This convivial, New England–style joint was a forerunner of the city’s fish-shack trend. The outstanding lobster roll—sweet, lemony meat laced with mayonnaise on a butter-enriched bun—is Pearl’s raison d’être, but more sophisticated dishes fare equally well: A bouillabaisse features briny lobster broth packed with mussels, cod, scallops and clams, with an aioli-smothered crouton balanced on top—a great value at $20.
RedFarm is indeed groundbreaking: an interpretive Chinese kitchen whose high-end ingredients and whimsical plating have helped pack the dining room since opening night. The restaurant is an Ed Schoenfeld joint, building on the work he began with head chef Joe Ng over at Chinatown Brasserie. Buzzy RedFarm feels like a return to those boom times, a stab at bringing some of that old energy back.