While I'm definitely a city girl these days, there are many things that I do miss about the simple, country life. It's true! Pre-New York and pre-Paris, I was a country girl - well, for four years of college, at least. Something I miss the most about Vermont are its country stores scattered from one quaint town to the next. For those of you who are familiar with the Green Mountain State, you know exactly what I'm talking about - and are probably ready to hop in car and head straight up I-89. For the rest of you, just envision everything from homemade fudge to fresh produce and cheese to hand carved furniture - all under one roof. It's hard to think of anything you can't get there. And, it's nearly impossible to leave without a new selection of both kitchen staples and decorations. What's not to love about a general store?
Well, now imagine a country store that actually does the cooking for you. Emporio, Nolita's very own general store (literal translation as well), has brought the country to the city in the form of a bustling, Italian restaurant. While serving up a variety of Italian delicacies, they also separately sell all the organic produce, pasta, risotto, and oils offered on the menu. Forget worrying about grocery shopping earlier in the day, you can now head to dinner and the market in one fell swoop. Emporio's menu consists of cheese and meat sections, anti-pasti, small plates and sides, homemade pastas and pizzas, and main courses. With so many options, you may not be able to order it all. Not to worry, just save some items for purchase before you turn in for the night.
We started the evening with several starters, burrata and yellowtail, that were nightly specials. However, it was the appetizers from the regular menu that were my favorites. Do not pass up the fried artichokes or the fava bean salad. The artichokes with fine herbs, sea salt, and lemon were perfectly crisp and light. The fava beans, mint, pea shoots, and pecorino salad was also extremely fresh and seasonal. Since the pizza invasion continues to prosper throughout the city, I figured I would put their exposed oven to the test. Both pies were a complete hit - especially the stracchino, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto and arugula. Stracchino is cow's milk cheese that is soft and creamy - completely melt in your mouth and perfect on a pizza. As usual, finding it hard to pass up pasta on any Italian menu, we went with the orechiette with shrimp, roasted cauliflower, and bottarga. This was a delicious combination of ingredients that resembled a baked pasta dish. Emporio is the real deal as far as homemade cooking goes. Not only are diners exposed to the pizza oven, but they can also see into the kitchen as it uses organic eggs in creating each and every homemade pasta. It doesn't get more comforting than that.
In case we hadn't had enough of their delicious dough, we decided to finish off the meal with a nutella, hazelnut, and marscapone calzone. It was a wonderful taste of sweet and savory - a great way to round out a nice, long meal. As we waited out the departure of the rowdy table behind us, we were finally able to enjoy talking without having to shout. Given the high volume and two rooms full of crowded tables, I think Emporio seems to have settled into city life quite nicely - maybe even faster and better than I have in the end. I realized that one of my favorite parts of the evening was towards the end of the night, once the restaurant had quieted down. It was at that moment that Emporio actually resembled the comforts of a true country store. Yes, I'm a city girl, but definitely part-country too.
231 Mott St.
New York, NY 10012
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):