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by Marisa Olsen

Looking for an Italian restaurant nestled in the West Village? Try Malatesta, a bustling corner restaurant on Hudson Street that will certainly will win over your date, whoever that may be. I’d recommend going early, because on a recent Monday night in August there was a wait at 7:30 pm

 Malatesta is delightful and very New York City; guests have an option of sitting outside and people watching (it’s a very lively area) or sitting inside, elbow to elbow with other diners. The waiters appear to be mostly Italian, the menu is handwritten, it’s cash-only, and the pasta is homemade. Now it’s not the best pasta I’ve had in the City, but it’s certainly good. And the buzz of the place makes up for any food that leaves you even the slightest discontented.

We started with the mussels in white wine, roasted tomatoes, and garlic. Skip this. Maybe because it was Monday, but the mussels weren’t memorable. Rather, opt for the grilled calamari with arugula and lemon--luscious pieces of squid sautéed with a perfect char and flavored simply with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. We also loved the sautéed spinach--a robust plate filled with nutrient-rich spinach, lemon, and olive oil. If that’s not a good starter for you, you can always snack on the generous stack of focaccia bread and olive oil given to each table.

One of my favorite entrées at Malatesta is the spinach gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce. This dish sounds rich, and usually I would skip something this decadent. But despite the ingredients, it’s actually light, and easy on the stomach. The gnocchi were little balls of heaven, and the sauce had the perfect balance of flavor, just a hint of a hearty cheese that won’t overtake your taste buds and take away from the pasta. Each bite is an experience.

I also liked a the evening’s special—the orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage with fennel seeds.  The orecchiette were cooked to perfection, the sausage was tasty, and the overall dish had the perfect level of heat. The tagliatelle with ragu was OK; I found the meat sauce a little dry. And the ravioli with pink cream sauce was also a winner, although I wish the ricotta filling had been a little warmer.

We were too full to order dessert, but I’d like to return to try. The staff was friendly and we ordered the house wine in carafes (Sangiovese and Chianti), which was about $20. The wines start at $30.

While Malatesta certainly isn’t the perfect or best Italian restaurant in the City, the ambiance is enough to win you over.

A little bit of trivia: the word "malatesta" refers to the Italian family that ruled in Italy in the 13th - 16th century.

649 Washington St, New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 741-1207

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