Feel Like Going to Italy for Dinner? At This Cozy Downtown Restaurant, You Basically Can
This city is filled with Italian and Italian American restaurants, plus whatever subgenre all those corner slice joints are (Italian New Yorker?). So while you’re never too far from a decent plate of pasta, it takes a lot for a spot to stand out amid all the red sauce. And the places that feel downright transportive? Those are even rarer.
But that’s how I’d describe a meal at Fiaschetteria Pistoia, a family-owned joint in the East Village (plus, more recently, a West Village spinoff). Tucked back on the corner of 11th Street and Avenue C, it’s neighborhoody in the best way possible, with big windows overlooking the sidewalk (set, in summer, with a handful of coveted outdoor tables).
Inside, vintage Italian ads line the walls, and in a corner, behind glass, is a man making pasta: rolling out straw-colored dough and then flattening it in a machine again and again into impossibly thin sheets in what amounts to some kind of live-action ASMR video. (The owner, Emanuele Bugiani, wanted to put the pasta-making station right in the middle of the restaurant, but the Department of Health said no.)
Bugiani, you might say, has pasta in his blood: His family has been working in restaurants in Pistoia—a medieval Tuscan city not far from Florence—since 1890. (His parents still run a spot there called Fiaschetteria La Pace.)
But let's get to the food: Start with 18-month aged prosciutto, sliced paper thin, and baskets of fluffy focaccia and rustic bread with bright-green olive oil. (TBH, I would’ve been happy making an entire meal out of this.) Apps range from the familiar (burrata over grape tomatoes) to the more surprising (zucchini flan with Parmigiano cream, chicken-liver crostini). There’s also pappa al pomodoro, a traditional Tuscan tomato soup thickened with bread.
If you tend to get overwhelmed by mile-long wine lists [raising-hand emoji], the system here will be a welcome change: A server brings over an antique metal caddy loaded with just a handful of bottles labeled with handwritten tags. The selection changes often but always spotlights easy-drinking—and super-affordable—Italian varietals. I opted for the house white, a mineral-y pinot grigio, which clocked in at just $8 a glass (or $30 a liter). The house wines, by the way, are served in what’s known as a fiasco—a traditional, handblown glass bottle nested in a straw basket—the origin of fiaschetteria (wine shop).
On to the pasta, which by now you’ll feel intimately familiar with, having watched its journey from giant dough mass to delicate strand. I loved the maccheroni sull’anatra—thick, flat pasta topped with duck ragu. And the pici freschi (fat, chewy hand-rolled spaghetti) cacio e pepe might be one of the best takes on the iconic cheese-and-pepper combo.
If you have any room left, order the pasta frolla e zabaione, a pillowy custard with crispy pastry shards. And if you’re a tiramisu person, the creamy, not-too-sweet version here is a must.
Sure, Avenue C is a far cry from the rolling hills of Tuscany. But when there’s good wine and mountains of pasta, we’re more than happy to pretend.