Walking around lower Manhattan in the blistering cold and occasional rain, it can be difficult to bring oneself to travel off the beaten path in search of delicious eats. More often than not, I find myself rushing from the confines of the subway to the first place with an awning, trying my best to bob and weave down the street, dodging raindrops, as my dining companion runs behind me screaming “Let’s just eat here! Who cares?”
Well, I care. Sometimes you need to brave the storm in order to get the best of the best.
Finding myself in yet another situation like this recently, I braved the rain and found myself inside the cozy confines of Galli Restaurant, a small Italian spot nestled in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. Upon walking into Galli, I was immediately greeted with the sweet aromatic rush of red sauce and basil. As my dining companion and I walked to the back of the surprisingly spacious restaurant, the aroma got even stronger, showing hints of intermingling parmesan cheese and bolognese. There comes a time in a food lover’s life when she finds herself in a situation of uninhibited bliss. This was certainly one of those times.
The focus of most if not all of my bliss throughout the meal was the red sauce, made in house at Galli. I don’t consider myself an Italian food afficionado, but anyone with half a tongue can determine the difference between a house-made sauce and a sauce that came straight out of the jar. The pomodoro at Galli is sweet and slightly chunky, giving it an excellent texture and comforting bite. Luckily for us, a foundation of this delicious sauce sat prettily underneath our appetizer of lightly fried baby rice balls, or arancini, stuffed with rice, tender chunks of beef and peas.
Next came an appetizer of calamari, staple at many Italian restaurants, but something special at Galli. Called “Mad Calamari” on the Galli menu, these tender, crispy bites were served with a side of spicy marinara sauce, also made in-house. Not overly spicy, the sauce and the richness of the squid was a match made in heaven.
In true Italian restaurant fashion, Galli serves up several classic dishes that have the ability to warm the heart and fill the belly for several hours. Classic pasta dishes fill out the menu, as well as a selection of ‘parm’ dishes, all served over pasta. In the pasta portion of the menu, traditional Penne Vodka is the star of the show, with chewy chunks of pancetta giving the sauce that much-needed salty push into perfection. The Vongole is a perfect selection for the seafood lover, with chopped clams and tomatoes served over fresh pasta with a stunning garlic olive oil. To take a walk on the pasta wild and healthy side, order the Integrale, a dish of whole-wheat pasta, escarole, cannellini beans, tomatoes and garlic oil.
I chose to go with the Gamberi, a bowl of al dente rigatoni noodles covered in a delicate pink sauce with broccoli florets and shrimp. This may come across as a “safe” choice, but I found it anything but. The sauce was rich and creamy, with a slight spice from crushed red pepper flakes. I found myself leaning back after every bite, enjoying the shrimp flavor that permeated the sauce and wondering if it would be poor form to order another dish to take home with me. I refrained, but not without some serious thought.
As with the main courses, the desserts at Galli are fairly traditional, with a few twists. A creamy slice of cheesecake is decadent and sweet, and classic tiramisu is perfection, with the flavor of liquor peeking out ever so slightly. We chose to go with the Nutella Sliders, two burger-like creations made with brioche buns, a slathering of nutella, and fresh strawberries. This play on sliders was a fun dessert and not overly sweet, a welcome change after the richness of our dinner.
The rain will dissipate, the cold weather will soon turn to delightful sunshine, but hopefully Galli will remain unchanged. Its comforting and home-cooked attitude is a necessary antidote to the sometimes intense nature of Manhattan, and for this, my pasta-filled belly is grateful.
45 Mercer Street
New York, NY