Classic Table: Casa Mono

Why the Spanish restaurant is worth a visit, ten years in

There's a reason Casa Mono, that mecca of Spanish cooking chef Andy Nusser and partner Mario Batali opened in 2004, is beloved by its regulars.

Well, actually there are a few of them: It's got the feeling of a "night out" without the pretension. That bustling dining room. That prime corner location on Irving Place. The bold flavors and big Spanish wines that keep the dining room packed, even on a snowy Sunday evening.

A decade in, the cooking, now overseen by chef Anthony Sasso, is still solid. Take the fideos ($18): Tiny clams are topped with a tangle of chopped noodles, Paul-Sorvino-in-Goodfellas-thin slices of garlic and little cubes of chorizo. It's best eaten with your hands, scooping up all that goodness with the shells and slurping out the clams' briny juice.

Classics like pan con tomate ($5) with specks of anchovy charm in their simplicity; hulking grilled wild mushrooms ($18) swim in a bright buttery broth dotted with salty Manchego curds. Some of the best bites were during dessert: Eating the doughy exterior of warm, fried bay leaves and dipping them into a crema Catalana ($9), with a perfectly crackly burnt sugar shell, was the perfect foil to a winter night.

Casa Mono knows it has a good thing going: Service can be on the brusque side, and the staff insists that you order everything at once (which sort of goes against the principles of tapas-style dining, but what do we know?).

Regardless, we think the restaurant's got another good ten years in it.

NYC's Casa Mono, the Spanish venture from Andy Nusser and Mario Batali, is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Spanish dishes like these razor clams on the plancha have become its signature.

Casa Mono' chef Anthony Sasso; a plate of peppers stuffed with oxtail.

The exterior of Casa Mono from Irving Plaza; a signature dish of fideos with clams, noodles and chorizo.

Duck egg with mojama and black truffles; a classic pan con tomate.