A Whirlwind Tour of Unusual Pastas

January 6, 2018

Found! A comfortable restaurant where you can actually have a conversation. That makes the new Fusco something of a novelty.

Scott Conant has taken over the old Veritas space, turning it into a little oasis of calm. Look around; sound baffling materials surround you, the music isn’t blasting, you can’t hear your neighbors – and you find yourself relaxing happily into your seat.

The man who’s famous for his tomato ragu is also cooking to a different tune here, making lapidary dishes that look more like jewelry than something you anticipate eating.

Our meal began with these beautiful little bites.  Does it matter what they were? Each was tiny – a mere whisper in the mouth – each a little surprise package of crunch, crackle and smoothness. (I particularly liked this little black rice arancino.)

But the tweezer work doesn’t stop there.  Here’s the chef’s take on bay scallop crudo:

And his hamachi crudo comes topped with chiles, ginger and little pearls of finger lime.

Pastas are equally ornate.  With the exception of pasta al pomodoro (it might more accurately be called butter-tomato pasta), which is as good as ever…

the chef is being wildly inventive, giving us a tour of Italy’s lesser-known pastas in some extremely unusual styles.

Consider squid ink scialatielli  (that would be a thick, short version of fettuccine), which comes embellished with sea urchin, invisible (but very present) n’duja and pork belly whose skin has puffed up into startling little bits of crisp chicharron. It’s a forceful and fascinating dish that changes with each bite.

Spatzle is equally unfamiliar.  Mingled with rabbit, porcini and a hint of mint, the squiggles of dough come topped with foie gras foam.

Casoncelli  (tiny hand-made ravioli-like pockets from Lombardy) are filled with oxtail, sprinkled with fresh horseradish, and embellished with the crunch of  crumbs.  Surprising – and very delicious.

There are also a couple of comforting dishes.  A great soft puddle of polenta is filled with mushroom and topped with a bit of truffle. Nobody has ever invented a better dish for this particular weather.

There’s also stromboli, a little round of bread stuffed with greens, salami and smoked mozzarella, which seems almost embarrassed to appear in this rarified atmosphere.  The wine list leans toward Italy, and is filled with interesting bottles. And the service could not be nicer.

Fusco offers Italy in a different mood; it’s a very pleasant interlude.

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