Sometimes, the world catches up to you. A top-tier restaurant in 2008 might just be a great one in 2020, despite the fact that nothing has changed other than the context around it. Just take a look at L’Artusi. It’s essentially the same as it was when it opened over a decade ago, and now the city has an overabundance of bustling places with impressive wine lists and bowls of orecchiette. Still, we love this special-occasion West Village spot and will probably continue to do so until the banquettes crumble, the bar deteriorates, and the city runs out of hosts to stand behind host stands.
If you pay close attention to things like numbers and decimal points, you’ve probably noticed that L’Artusi’s rating has gone down. (It used to be a 9.5.) Does that mean it’s bad now? Of course not. This is still one of the best Italian restaurants in the city, and an 8.5 still makes L’Artusi one of the highest-rated places on our site. But, like this city, we’ve grown and changed, and L’Artusi’s kale-crudo-pasta formula is no longer the pinnacle of the NYC dining experience.
But that doesn’t mean we’re breaking up with L’Artusi. The beet ravioli and kale pyramides are still perfectly al dente and pretty enough to sell at the MoMA Design Store, and the bucatini with pecorino and pancetta is a case study in successful minimalism. The heavily marbled beef carpaccio with little pockets of garlicky crema is also one of the best dishes in NYC (top 50, let’s say), and the mains not only keep pace with the pastas, they sometimes lap them entirely.
So why is it all starting to feel a bit stale? Is it the chandeliers that look like they’re on loan from Tommy Hilfiger’s beach house? Or the Michael Bublé-adjacent soundtrack that seems like it was engineered to offend the least amount of people? Yes. Both of these things. L’Artusi feels like 2008, and, unfortunately, nostalgia doesn’t work that fast. But these are minor nuisances. When you notice the striped banquettes that look like they were blindly selected from a Crate & Barrel catalog circa the first Obama administration, you won’t pay them much mind. You’ll be too preoccupied eavesdropping on neighbors in a dining room that’s somehow always packed to the host stand, even on a Monday night.
Prime reservations at L’Artusi are near-impossible to get, and the waits for walk-ins can be multiple hours. But just take that as another piece of evidence that you should eat here (preferably at the bar that’s first-come-first-served). Sure, this isn’t the absolute best Italian restaurant in the city anymore - but you can go ahead and blame our evolving species, the expanding universe, and L’Artusi’s commitment to remaining L’Artusi. On the plus side, if you reach inside yourself and decide, very reasonably, that there’s nothing more you want from a restaurant than well-executed pasta and roast chicken, you know exactly where you need to go.
Hands down, this is the best beef carpaccio in the city. It’s thinly sliced and heavily marbled, with finely chopped onion and pockets of garlicky crema. This is how you should start your meal at L’Artusi.
Who goes out of their way to eat “Roasted Mushrooms”? You do, you simple, likable fool. Because these aren’t just roasted mushrooms. They come topped with a fried egg and a heavy coating of ricotta salata, and they’re salty, sour, and a little bit spicy.
You can find something similar to this kale salad in roughly 500 other New York City restaurants, but this simple, perfectly dressed version is what those other salads should be measured against. So if you’re looking for some well-executed fiber and vitamin A, order this. If not, it’s fine to skip.
Where have you seen orecchiette with sausage before? Oh right, most places. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore this. It’s mildly spicy with a meat-to-pasta ratio that’s almost 50:50, and it’s one of our favorite things here.
Somehow anything involving mushrooms at L’Artusi is capable of making you reach for your heart and saying, “My god,” and this is no exception. The mushroom ragu is so hearty it might as well be meat. It’s outstanding.
This bucatini comes perfectly al dente with a light tomato sauce and lots of pancetta. It’s simple and reliable, and it’s somehow even better the next day (should you have leftovers).
The rare dish you absolutely don’t need at L’Artusi, this spaghetti with chilies and parmesan just doesn’t have a lot going on. It isn’t bad. It’s boring. And that’s almost worse.
In our previous review of L’Artusi, we told you that the mains here just aren’t as exciting as the pastas. That’s no longer the case. This branzino, for example, comes in a neat, crispy filet on a bed of olives, and it’s a thing of beauty. If you’re looking for a lighter option, get this.
What makes this roasted chicken so good? Is it the crispy skin? The juicy meat? Or the moat of sauce that tastes like it’s pure brown butter? Most likely, it’s a combination of all these things. After you eat some pasta, split this with someone.
This pork chop comes topped with cheese and walnut pesto, and we like it just a tiny bit less than the chicken. Just be aware that it can be extremely salty, so if you’re known to complain about the sodium content of your food, do yourself a favor and don’t order this.
Unless you lie awake at night and think about eating eight-legged sea creatures, you don’t really need this octopus. It’s well-cooked and objectively tasty - it just isn’t all that compelling.