I had every intention of writing up Max Soha right before Columbia College Family Weekend. Somehow life and my own studies took over and last weekend quickly passed before my eyes. And, in actuality, I am quite certain that nearly all Columbia students already know about this great gem in Morningside Heights. And if they don't, food is probably not on their radar. So, this post actually goes out to the rest of Manhattan - the adventuresome looking to branch out of their hoods in search of excellent Italian cuisine. This is the furthest north that I have dined in Manhattan, and let me tell you, venturing those extra few blocks was well worth my travels.
Located on the corner of 123rd and Amsterdam, Max Soha is cozy and simple - in both setting and cuisine. While the menu stays the same throughout the day, this is a lunch and dinner destination. The extensive list of daily specials hanging on the blackboard in the back of the restaurant sets the anticipation for each trip - and truly making each one unique. The setting is warm in this small dining room with brick-red walls and tables with floral coverings. And, in warmer weather, the outside wooden deck is another great setting. The only catch is that it's cash only, but the affordable prices should help with this obstacle.
The traditional trattoria features appetizers, salads, pastas, and entrees. While the specials will certainly always showcase the best, freshest ingredients, the regular menu offers many dishes that should not be overlooked. Yes, it's basic, but their handmade gnocchi is some of the best - served with tomato sauce, basil, and melted homemade mozzarella. These little dumplings will simply melt in your mouth. The rigatoni alla Siciliana is another simple, yet truly authentic dish. Served perfectly al dente and in a similar preparation to the gnocchi, the rigatoni is topped with eggplant, homemade melted mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil. While I'd love to claim that the secret is in the sauce, I am convinced that the actual homemade pastas and the cheese carry equal weights. It's hard to stray from the best of tradition when they taste this good. But, on my last excursion north, the homemade ravioli special was more than enough reason to take a risk. This was the first time I had ever come across an asparagus, mushroom, and zucchini ravioli made with spinach dough and served with a beet cream sauce, and it was excellent.
If only Max Soha were in the west village, I would be dining there weekly. And, if only work were not quite as busy, I would be lunching there bi-weekly. If only. But if more people knew how delicious and authentic this Italian cuisine were, this post wouldn't be nearly as exciting. Whichever way you look at it, we all need more adventure and Max Soha in our lives.
1262 Amsterdam Ave. (@ 123rd st.)
New York, NY 10027
FOOD RATING (Out of 5):