Café Altro Paradiso
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In terms of physical comforts, Café Altro Paradiso is an improvement upon its squat, clamorous ancestor, Estela: The 75-seat, split-level dining room is airy and bright, if nondescript, with bare white-oak finishes, vaulted ceilings and large windows flooding everything with natural light. A long brass-topped bar welcomes customers upon arrival, appeasing the women draped in leather jackets and men in crisply pressed suits with amaro cocktails and small-town Italian vino until their table is ready.
But on the plate, things are a bit too comfortable, even bordering on complacent. Mattos, overseeing chef de cuisine Aidan O’Neal (M. Wells Dinette) in the kitchen, made a name for himself with his cutting-edge, space-oddity cooking at the now-shuttered South Williamsburg restaurant Isa, and even his mellower work at Estela can seem downright kooky in comparison to Altro’s middlebrow dishes. Carpaccio ($18), fixed with fried capers, potato chips and a puddle of aged balsamic, may have the same genetic makeup as Estela’s exemplary steak tartare, but it doesn’t thrill the way that sunchoke-studded stunner does.
Fennel salad with Castelvetrano olives and curls of provolone has a nice citrus pluck ($15), as does fluke crudo dotted with caper berries ($16), but such starters are uniformly pale in color and paltry of portion. Things liven up around the menu’s house-made pastas: ricotta-plump ravioli with fava beans and meaty black truffle ($23) and pudgy gnocchi pillows with nubs of sausage and pecorino stagionato ($22). Pastas are meant to occupy dinner’s midcourse, but with mains like a characterless chicken milanese ($28) following, you’re better off making a meal out of them.
234 Spring St
|Cross street:||between Sixth Ave and Varick St|
|Transport:||Subway: 1 to Houston St|
|Price:||Average main course: $18|
|Opening hours:||Mon-Thu 5:30-11pm; Fri, Sat 5:30pm-midnight|
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