Spasso Relations

A fresh take on Italian in the West Village

A couple of weeks ago, we made a quiet resolution not to cover any more new Italian restaurants unless they are truly noteworthy. Like many of you, the recent spate of Italianate openings has carbo-overloaded us into boredom.

With this in mind, let us introduce you to Spasso.

This new 65-seat West Village restaurant offers the seemingly impossible–a fresh approach to primi, secondi and the like–without resorting to gimmicks or trends.

Take a sit at the kitchen counter and order a Manhattan Invertito, a genius cocktail (click here to download the recipe) that flips the standard whiskey-vermouth formula on its head and provides a hint at what follows on the menu.

There, chef Craig Wallen–who spent the past six years in the space that housed L'Impero and now Convivio–takes traditional Italian preparations and ingredients and shuffles the deck. His riceless arancini ($7) are filled instead with creamy eggplant, offering the crunchy satisfaction of an eggplant parm in miniature.

Trout (not veal) gets the prosciutto-wrapped saltimbocca treatment ($22), and a breadless, kale-heavy ribollita ($8) isn't so much soup as it is a fulfilling braised vegetable dish.

Pastas, painstakingly made by hand using such tools as a chitarra and a hand-cranked extruder, are offered in minimalist preparations, such as orecchiette with rock shrimp and crab ($20) or bigoli with butter, chiles and Parmigiano ($14), which pay respect to the excellent noodles at hand.

With 30-some dishes on offer, it'll take you a few visits to explore the menu. Don't worry: You won't get bored.

Spasso, 551 Hudson St. (at Perry St.); 212-858-3838 or spassonyc.com