In the fall of 1982, The Delorean Motor Company went bankrupt. There were probably a few different factors behind this - but it didn’t help that their flagship car (the one from Back to the Future) had as much horsepower as something you’d buy for a nearsighted teen with poor decision-making skills and an affinity for movies starring Vin Diesel. Sure, it looked great, but there just wasn’t much under the hood. And, in a certain sense, the same can be said about Scampi.
Scampi is a seafood-focused Italian restaurant just a few blocks north of Union Square, and it is, above all, a very well-designed place. But a lot of the food here is average (or worse), and it feels like it’s all a little more expensive than it should be. Although there are a few situations in which you might enjoy yourself here.
If you’re redecorating your apartment, for example, Scampi might give you a few ideas. It has huge windows and high ceilings - and if you told us it was a pop-up promoting the latest furniture line from CB2, we wouldn’t not believe you. The stools, mirrors, shelves, and light fixtures all appear to be both custom and expensive, and there are several communal tables that look so nice that you almost won’t be upset if you get seated at one of them. Overall, it’s a very pleasant space, and it looks like it took a lot of effort to achieve. The food, on the other hand, feels less thought-out.
The menu is made up of pastas, mains, vegetables, and crudos - and a lot of the dishes taste like something you’d eat at a nice mall restaurant on a day when the kitchen was feeling especially optimistic. Take the mafaldini “scampi”: with all its oil, salt, and breadcrumbs, it’s the food equivalent of a spring break on the Mexican Riviera or pretty much any show on Bravo. Enjoyable at first, but ultimately too much. A few other dishes are less enjoyable, and you might not even want to finish them.
That said, the desserts at Scampi are great, and the drinks aren’t bad. So if we were walking around the neighborhood and found ourselves craving a cocktail and a cannoli, we might stop by and hang out at the bar. And if someone else were paying, we wouldn’t be upset with a plate of the campanelle or mezzaluna. But the rest of the menu is hit-or-miss - so we aren’t going to tell you to risk your own dollars here. Like a sports car with a go-kart engine, this place is set up to be disappointing, and with so many other good Italian restaurants in this city, it’s not worth seeking out.
With all the shrimp, cheese, oil, and breadcrumbs, this pasta has too much going on. It isn’t the worst, but you also don’t need to pay $23 for it.
Half-moon-shaped pasta filled with pork and topped with a tomato sauce that has chunks of guanciale in it. This dish is probably the best thing here.
This is the obligatory sausage/broccoli rabe pasta on the menu, and there isn’t anything wrong with it. If you wind up here, feel free to order it, although maybe ask them to take it easy with the salt.
Mostly, these taste like chopped up clams with green onion on top. This dish meets about the bare-minimum of how good you expect it to be.
Another crudo, and this one just isn’t good. On the bright side, you can put a spoonful of this in your mouth and try to guess which chunks are mackerel and which are eggplant.
This roasted head of cauliflower is about 2% crisp exterior and 98% watery interior. If it came with some kind of sauce, or if someone had said “Eat this whole thing, or I’ll fight you,” we probably would’ve had more than a few bites.
If those salad bars you find in nice bodegas had shaved brussels sprouts, you’d be able to make this salad at one of them.