Manhattan, New York – Peasant

Restaurant: Peasant
Cuisine:
Italian
Last visited:
September 9, 2011
Location:
Manhattan, NY (Nolita)
Address: 194 Elizabeth St
Nearby subway stops: Spring Street
Price Range: 
$30-50+

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6Tres Excellent!!

Food: 5.5
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 5.5
Additional comments:

  • Since 2000
  • Authentic Italian cuisine
  • Homestyle, yet gourmet
  • Rustic/family style
  • Local favourite
  • Hidden gem
  • Wood fired brick ovens
  • Great for seafood
  • Good for groups
  • Good portions
  • Sophisticated/lively
  • Moderately priced
  • Wine list/bar
  • Reservations recommended
  • Sun 6-10pm
  • Tue-Thurs 6-11pm
  • Fri-Sat 6-11:30pm
  • Closed Monday

**Recommendations: Everything I ordered, but especially the Cannolichi (Razor clams), Polpi in Purgatorio (Baby Octopus), Sweet breads, Suckling Pig

As a tourist with food always on the mind, New York may seem easy to maneuver since it’s a foodie capital. But to avoid tourist traps and discover the local favourites and hidden gems in the city is surprisingly difficult. I really lucked out with Peasant, and unless I did my research, I would have never discovered it on my own. Unless you’re Italian or heavily invested in the New York food scene, I don’t even think many locals even know about this place. But what an incredible find it was!

I was actually given this recommendation from the executive chef at Jean-Georges in New York. Needless to say, it’s quite a reliable source for a restaurant rec. We got into a major food discussion and Peasant came up as a favourite of his. Of course I put it on my itinerary and moved it up as priority, I’d highly recommend you to do the same.

Almost all the amazing restaurants I went to I would never find on my own or without doing intense foodie research. So many places in New York have discrete signage and locations, but if a place is packed without the advertisement, chances are it’s doing something right.

Peasant was only a dive from the outside. The inside was quite welcoming, classy and sophisticated without being pretentious. It is a hot spot for a hip, young and energetic crowd, but it offers much more than its ambiance. I was feeling it right away and just knew I hit gold with this restaurant choice.

It’s an open kitchen with wood fired brick ovens and everything about it felt authentic and rustic without being gimmicky. It’s a place where you actually go to eat! And well too! The portions aren’t “Americanized”, but they’re “Italianized”, and generous, but not gross.

For a minute I actually felt like I was in Italy and this is a place Italians flock to as well. Situated just outside Little Italy in New York, it is far from a tourist trap and I would no doubt revisit Peasant on my next trip back to New York. That’s a pretty bold statement coming from a food blogger who’s always eager to try something she hasn’t tried before.

Coming from Vancouver, BC where the Italian food scene isn’t as strong as New York, I was incredibly impressed and satisfied. But even for New York wine and food scholars, this is considered excellent. It’s not a Mario Batali Italian restaurant, one featured on Food Network, or even “the best Italian in New York”, but it’s truly the “local hidden gem” in the most honest sense of that overused term. Peasant looked, felt and tasted like the real Italian deal. I tried over 50+ restaurants in two weeks in New York, and this was one of my favourites, so I’d definitely say it’s a must try.

On the table:

Complimentary Bread & Ricotta

  • Voila! Already we were off to a great start!
  • Who serves complimentary house made bread with fresh ricotta cheese!? Peasant does!
  • Forget the olive oil and balsamic, this is how they do it in Italy!
  • It was cold bread with a crusty nutty exterior and a fluffy soft centre that wasn’t very chewy, but it was great bread.
  • The bread didn’t have much flavour, but it went with the fluffy fresh ricotta cheese and the super fruity olive oil you drizzle on top upon eating.
  • This and my glass of white wine, it was love at first sight!

**Cannolichi6/6

  • Razor clams $14
  • Holy bejeezus! I was laughing as I ate this it was so good! It was one of the best things of my whole trip!
  • First off, it was razor clams. Razor clams! I rarely see these guys being offered at restaurants, so it was another bonus!
  • It was super tender clams with a soft Parmesan and panko bread crumb topping in a lemony, garlicky, white wine and olive oil sauce.
  • I thought the topping would be crispy, but it wasn’t, but I didn’t care either because it was so cheesy and delicious!
  • There was a good amount of thyme and a bit of oregano and everything was just fresh and well prepared.
  • I know it sounds simple, and it was, but it was better than just those listed ingredients combined.
  • It was really savoury, but not too salty, nutty and aromatic and I was just scooping that sauce up with my shells and dipping my bread into it too.
  • I’ve had “lemon garlic white wine seafood” before, and I know it sounds “been there, done that”, but trust me, these are likely better than any you’ve had.

Seppie in Terracotta (Cuttlefish)4.5/6

  • Cuttlefish, cherry tomatoes, white wine $14
  • This was probably the only dish that fell short of excellent, and by no means was it not good. It was still very good!
  • The cuttle fish was almost prepared the same way as the razor clams, but for some reason it wasn’t as good as the clams. It’s not because it was cuttlefish either, because I like both.
  • The cuttlefish was tender, but just not as flavourful as the clams and it didn’t pick up the sauce as well or benefit from the Parmesan panko topping as much.
  • It was still very buttery, but it kind of tasted like something you may have had before.
  • The sauce was still the basic garlic, lemon, white wine and herb infused sauce, but it’s likely one of the best versions of that sauce you’ll have. I don’t know if it’s the wine or what.
  • Although it was very good, I always like seeing Italian squid prepared with the squid ink, so I was a bit biased.
  • If I didn’t have the razor clams, this would have been excellent, but because I had the razor clams, I would rather have seconds and thirds of that.

**Polpi in Purgatorio - 5.5/6

  • Baby octopus, chile peppers $14
  • It was super tender octopus and it was served like the sea was in the kitchen! I loved it!
  • It was wasn’t chewy and it was cooked perfectly and every bite had flavour.
  • It was in a similar garlic and white wine sauce, but with added chili so there was a nice kick to it and the spiciness lingered.
  • There was an apparent smokiness from roasted chilies and the actual seeds were also fried and infused into the sauce so it was quite spicy, but not hot.
  • The 8 legged friend was just loving its bath and it’s really hard to serve octopus whole like this and have it so flavourful and tender, so I was really impressed!

Maltagliati Con Coniglio5/6

  • With braised rabbit and fava beans $24
  • I love rabbit and anything braised, so I was excited about this dish.
  • Maltagliati is a very “peasant”, rustic and home style pasta. It was fresh made, and it’s basically random shapes of flat pasta likely made from leftover pasta dough.
  • As “rustic” as it was supposed to be, the pasta was still perfectly cut and refined, so it was still “rustic” done gourmet.
  • The pasta was well salted, firm with an al dente bite and it held on to the sauce well.
  • It was a very juicy pasta and it was reminiscent of a hearty chicken noodle stew or soup in pasta form.
  • There were some nice carrots, onions, garlic and fresh herbs to give it aromatics and depth.
  • The garlic were whole cloves of sweet caramelized garlic and it just gave so much natural flavour to the dish.
  • The sauce was olive oil and white wine based and the natural juices of the braised rabbit just played right into it.
  • The rabbit was tender, juicy and shredded (tastes like chicken if you’ve never had it), and it was really quite stew like without the broth.
  • The fava beans added texture and the absence of a heavy sauce really showcased the rabbit and quality of the food here.

Fettucine Con Ragu Di Vitello4.5/6

  • With veal sauce $26
  • The fettucine was again hand made in house, thick, well salted, chewy and still firm.
  • It was well coated in a rich red wine and tomato ragu developed with carrots, garlic and the natural juices of the veal.
  • It was slightly gamey, which I’m sensitive too, but I still didn’t mind the subtle gaminess.
  • The tomatoes were not really acidic, but a bit sweet and the sauce was buttery and oily and it just coated each noodle like paint.
  • There was a creaminess to it, and it was slightly cheesy too, and the chunks of veal were super juicy and melted in my mouth as well.
  • This probably wasn’t special of this restaurant, and it’s not particularly memorable, but it was still excellent and I did love it.
  • Personally, I’ve enjoyed other ragu sauces in Vancouver better before, and I do prefer a short rib ragu as opposed to veal.
  • I just like the shredded strands of meat rather than the cubes of veal in a pasta.

**Spaghetti Con Scampi5.5/6

  • With langoustine $26
  • Love it! Langoustine! I mean just reading the menu, you know you’ve hit a good spot!
  • Hardly any places offer langoustine let alone razor clams and rabbit all under one roof!
  • They do a great job with seafood and this was the star pasta of the night. Although competition was very marginal!
  • Langoustine is a large shrimp meets a baby lobster, but it’s in the lobster family, although I find it tastes more like shrimp.
  • It was a more broth based pasta and the spaghetti was fresh and somewhat thicker than most spaghetti noodles. It was well salted and al dente again.
  • The broth was infused with the flavours of the langoustine shells and likely the heads, but it wasn’t creamy or rich and still somewhat light.
  • There were whole cloves of caramelized garlic and a bit of chili in the broth as well so the flavour was well developed with a mild heat.
  • It was a rather light sauce that held so much flavour and the plump juicy cherry tomatoes were sweet more than sour.
  • The langoustine was slightly mushy (tends to be), but overall it was an excellent seafood pasta with tons of flavour .
  • It’s nothing fancy, despite being langoustine, but it was well delivered and served home style like they would in Italy.
  • I wouldn’t have minded some olives or a few more ingredients, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless.

**Animelle Con Funghi - 5.5/6

  • Sauteed sweetbreads, asparagus & seasonal mushrooms $29
  • This is a very rich, hearty and indulgent main and it is best shared or it’s a bit too much, but it’s so worth ordering.
  • The sweetbreads were almost double or triple the size as normal sweet breads and it was a bit intimidating.
  • Surprisingly they were really light and pillowy and not too chewy or “giblety” like some can feel in your mouth.
  • I usually prefer them crispy on the outside, but these were soaked in gravy so I almost couldn’t tell I was eating sweetbreads.
  • The dish was very rustic and home style Italian, but made for “special occasions” in the execution.
  • It was swimming in a rich creamy well reduced red wine gravy that was possibly made with veal stock and of course some garlic again.
  • The wild mushrooms were great and their juices just seeped into the velvety gravy and the touch of cream just made you want to roll over and scratch your belly.
  • The fresh basil leaves were great and there was some minty flavour in there too, but it was very mild.
  • It was a fresh herby flavour for the heavy meat dish, and as good as it was, I wouldn’t want just this for dinner.
  • However, this was a hearty, indulgent Italian main that the French would tip their hats off too!

**Porchetta Arrosto (Suckling Pig) – 6/6

  • Rotisserie suckling pig with fingerling potatoes $29
  • Oh god! DROOL! This was either my first of second favourite dish of the night and one of my favourites from my whole 2 weeks in New York. It’s a must try!
  • Christmas comes early with this and I swear there’s an Italian grandma in the kitchen!
  • It’s a dish that calls for a celebration!
  • This is again really rich and hearty and probably best shared since it’s so substantial.
  • It was Italian comfort food and likely one of the best porchettas I’ve had. Period.
  • It was a big strip of crispy fatty suckling pig that was well seasoned and salted with meat that was so juicy and tender that it required no knife.
  • The skin was so crispy and there was some Rosemary and a great dry rub that was reminiscent of dry ribs.
  • It was super moist and oily with flavour and not just oil, and it wasn’t one bit chewy or gelatinous.
  • It was better than any pulled pork I’ve had, and the meat was that soft and buttery in texture.
  • The suckling pig sat on top of a warm smashed potato salad made with buttery fingerling potatoes with the skins on.
  • The potatoes were super saucy in a rich creamy gravy with fresh herbs. It was actually more like a roughly mashed potato in cream sauce than a potato salad.
  • This is one of the best versions of “meat and potatoes” I’ve had.

Budino Di Pane E Cioccolato Bianco4.5/6

  • White chocolate bread pudding with almonds, figs and white chocolate gelato $9
  • I’m a fan of hot and cold desserts and anything served with ice cream so I had my eyes on this.
  • The bread was homemade and baked in their wood fired brick oven so it was more special than typical “bread pudding”.
  • This was a substantial dessert, so prepare yourself.
  • It was a very eggy custardy bread with a crispy caramelized exterior and super moist spongy inside.
  • There were slivered almonds and dried figs in the bread, but not enough of either.
  • I almost wanted more of a nuttiness and fruitiness rather than a block of bread, although the block was still delicious.
  • The white chocolate gelato wasn’t overly sweet and nice and creamy, but overall the dessert was quite sweet especially with the added drizzle of caramel sauce on top.
  • This was very good, but the bread pudding was a bit dense although not dry. I just prefer mine creamier and lighter, but I still devoured this.
  • Another excellent bread pudding is the Torrija y Helado from Boqueria also in New York. It’s kind of the Spanish version of this and both are satisfying to the end of any meal, if you have space. But dessert is a second stomach anyways… ;)

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11 Comments

  • erin says:

    omg! i have added this to my list of nyc spots to check out next time i am there. i have a list of about 20… this one looks like a must. “it’s a dish that calls for a celebration”… i love that!!!

  • Sara says:

    You just convinced me to try this!!! I never seen ricotta cheese served complimentary before! Sounds delicious with the olive oil.

    Your description of the suckling pig and razor clam just made me drool. LOL. I am just curious as to what is that white creamy thing sitting on top of the potatoes. Looks so yummy!

    And I had no idea razor clams could be served this way. The only time I had in a restaurant was in Toronto’s Chinatown and they served it with some sort of black bean garlic sauce. It was delish!

  • Mijune says:

    @erin – omgomgomgomgom u HAVTE to come here! I think you’ll LOVE it!! Definitely worth the trip to NYC! We don’t have this in Vancouver.. not this quality/style/price/ambiance at least. ahhh I’m so excited for you!! I have LOTS of NYC posts so just make sure you give them a good look when you narrow down your list :)

    @Sara – yay!!!! ARe you going to NY!?? The white stuff is pork +potatoes mashed together! :) Yes I love the black bean version too… but this was still AMAZING!! Please try!

  • Bow says:

    Absolutely delightful, wow !!! wish it was in Vancouver…I’d luv that Polpi ! The rabbit would be a must, also. Sweetbreads,razor clams, cuttlefish, suckling pig,,,SIGH…

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – and I swear I though of you! I knew you would love this menu!!!

  • Linda says:

    ok, this is definitely going on my new york eating itinerary! i’m a sucker for suckling pig and the one they have here is totally droolworthy :)

    the variety of seafood they have here is impressive! i thought the picture of the cuttlefish was a picture of eggs or fresh mozzerella! they look HUGE!!!!

    i had sweetbreads for the first time at l’abbattoir earlier this summer and fell in love with them. i like that the ones they offer here are covered in such a rich, creamy sauce… for the price of the dishes here, i’m glad the quality of the ingredients are so fresh :)

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – I had to post on it before you went!! I REALLY wanted you to try this place!

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