For 18 years Pó has been serving quality Italian food on Cornelia Street in the West Village. The restaurant is intimate, dim, and loaded with personality. There is seating for around 30 guests at most and the small tables can be pushed together for large groups. Those popping in without reservations, may be able to arrange seating at the bar.
Although Pó may be known as the restaurant that launched Mario Batali into celebrity, his friend and co-founder Steven Crane is responsible for making the establishment a critical success. After Batali’s departure, Pó was left solely in the hands of Crane who now co directs food with Executive Chef Lee McGrath and the restaurant is said to be better than ever.
As guests of the restaurant, our meal began with a complimentary serving of Pó’s signature white bean bruschetta; first one on the house, $2 for each additional serving. Though at first glance the white bean bruschetta looked like nothing special, once I bit into the crunchy bread topped by smooth white beans with garlic infused olive oil and rosemary, I realized just how much flavor was packed into this appetizer.
Arriving alongside the bruschetta was a loaf of rustic Italian bread with olive oil for dipping. The bread had a hard crust that crackled when tearing off a slice, and was perfect for dipping into the sweet, fruity olive oil.
Looking over the menu, several dishes caught my attention: polpetta di carne, beets and carrot crudo, white bean ravioli, gnocchi della casa, grilled salmon and one of the specials of the day fettuccine with sun dried tomatoes, pancetta, peppers and asiago cheese. So of course I had to try them all!
First came the antipasti, polpetta di carne, meatballs with tomato sauce and caciocavallo, a type of cheese. The mixture of beef, veal, and pork meat gave the meatballs a distinctive, milder, yet more complex flavor. The meat was well seasoned and the sauce was light and great for dipping the bread.
Beets and carrot crudo topped by pistachio crusted goat cheese made up our salad course. Being a big fan of beets I had very high expectations, which were not only met, but surpassed. The carrots and beets were nicely julienned and coated with a tangy balsamic vinaigrette that went nicely with the pistachio crusted goat cheese.
Pó is best known for its pasta and we were not disappointed. The white bean ravioli served in a balsamic brown butter sauce was loaded with flavor. The filling was dense and creamy; a definite must have when visiting Pó.
The gnocchi della casa was served with fresh mozzarella and topped with a flavorful basil tomato sauce. This dish was a little on the heavy side so I would suggest sharing with a friend or having this as an entrée.
The pasta special of the day was a fettuccine with sun dried tomatoes, peppers, pancetta and asiago cheese. The fettuccine was cooked al dente and the tiny pieces of pancetta made for a nice little surprise in every bite.
The pasta dishes at Pó are all priced under twenty dollars and the generous portions can be eaten as an entrée or shared between guests as a first course.
Closing the dinner portion of the meal was the grilled salmon in a balsamic glaze with squash caponata. The crosshatch grill marks not only make the dish look good but they also added a beautiful crunch to the salmon. The squash caponata under the salmon was equally satisfying; the flavors blended well and the veggies were tender, not mushy, providing a perfect combination of consistencies in each bite.
Last but definitely not least was the magnificent dessert course. We ordered the affogato (coffee gelato, chilled cappuccino and chocolate caramel sauce), as well as Pó’s signature sweet, the Pó sundae (above), comprised of fresh mint gelato, cinnamon spiced pine nuts and chocolate sauce. Both desserts were served in elegant drinking glasses. The affogato was refreshing and a nice alternative to ordering a cappuccino or latte. The Pó sundae was a pleasant blend of warm chocolate sauce, refreshing mint gelato and roasted nuts spiced with cinnamon.
If you can’t decide on what to order try Chef McGrath’s six course tasting menu, $52 per guest, which includes insalata, two primi, one secondi, formaggio and dolce (in layman’s terms a salad, two pasta dishes, an entrée, a cheese dish and a dessert). If that price is too rich for your blood try popping in for the four course lunch tasting menu which includes insalata, primi, secondi and dolce for a mere $35.
The service was professional. Our waiter, David, was extremely helpful and described each dish in great detail. The staff is friendly and quick to build rapport with diners.
Due to Pó’s reputation of exceptional service and quality Italian fare they are in high demand so it is suggested that diners make reservations. This is not to discourage any impromptu diners; if you are in the area you can stop by the restaurant to see if there are any openings/cancellations. Your best bet if your looking to score a table without reservations, is to go to the restaurant when they open for dinner at 5:30 p.m., as the restaurant is busier after 6 p.m.
All in all, Pó was a wonderful dining experience and if you are in the mood for classic Italian dishes packed with flavor this is where you should be.
31 Cornelia Street in the heart of the West Village
Open for Dinner
Monday through Thursday 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Sunday 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Open for Lunch
Wednesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For reservations, please call 212-645-2189 or visit www.pórestaurant.com