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Pete Wells: For Authentic Tuscan Food, Head to I Sodi in the West Village

 

A photo posted by Daniel Humm (@danielhumm) on

On one of the “less rollicking” blocks of Christopher Street in the West Village sits I Sodi, an authentic Tuscan restaurant. It’s been there for eight years, and though it’s “almost always packed,” it comes without the hype of downtown Italian restaurants like Carbone or Babbo. It was reviewed once by the New York Times in 2008 when the menu was smaller. The review was smaller too, a “brief” that shared the page with a review for The Rusty Knot. This week, Pete Wells went back.

“To eat there,” he says, “is to abide by the laws of eating that Rita Sodi, the chef and an owner, brought with her from the farm north of Florence where she was raised. These private laws dictate a menu that is rigidly Tuscan.” On one visit, for example, Wells ordered a tagliata (grilled sirloin) medium-rare, but then decided he “wanted the smoothness of nearly raw beef,” and instead asked for it rare. The waiter assured him, “We cook the steak on the lighter side…Medium-rare here is like rare in the rest of America.”

That is to say, don’t ask for fettuccine Alfredo with grilled shrimp. If you do, “you may want to make sure that Ms. Sodi does not have a knife in her hand.” Sodi abandons her own ideas, though Wells assures us, she does have them, and instead focuses on technique, and making her food authentic. To those who know it, it’s known “more as a neighborhood beacon than as a chef’s turn in the spotlight.”

 

The menu is “mercilessly” seasonal. Artichokes, when they’re in season, will find a place on almost every section of the menu. It’s also a place where you definitely should get the pasta.

There can’t be any doubt that she is one of the city’s great pasta practitioners when you eat I Sodi’s square little chestnut-filled chestnut-flour tortelli in a sauce of butter and grated cheese, or butter-slicked ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach under fried sage leaves, or spaghetti cacio e pepe, noodles that twirl up into your mouth with a wiggle, carrying a black-pepper bite that lingers on and on.

She also works with her main ingredients in such a way that they are “prohibited from hiding.” The chicken, baked branzino, and beef tartare, and panna cotta are highlights. The risotto was the only disappointing thing on the menu; you’re better off with another pasta. Also, Negroni variations are excellent, and will cost you less than some of the wine, though their list does have some excellent options.

Overall? Two stars.

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[Image via Instagram @danielhumm]

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