Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Pleasant Peasant

What's better than simplicity? Peasant in NoLita brings you just that on a terracotta plate. A few doors down from the ever popular Public, Peasant is a little more demure with its two rustic levels, emanating a cozy warmth, perhaps from the large pizza brick oven in the center of the first floor.

Genius ricotta served with hearty bread is thrown onto your table as the waiter will read you the menu (it's all in Italian). You'll choose a wine and probably start off with some sizzling appetizers baked right in that brick oven. Crackling octopus come spicy swimming in a fragrant olive oil infused with chili peppers and the mozzerella pepporoni dish is just heavenly with those delectable melt in your mouth balls of cheese.

And the entrees aren't bad either. Me and my girlfriend opted for the healthy route (that ricotta will kill you) and ordered the whole roasted seabass on a bed of thyme and broccoli rabe on the side. Perfectly crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, the fish didn't make us at all envious of the pasta dishes our neighbors ordered (ok, maybe a little).

And that's just the food. The crowd offers an eclectic mix of NoLita hipsters and art intellectuals chowing down on rustic Italian and clustering outside to share that oh-so cherished cigarette after a hearty dinner.

Final Word: Insiders eat downstairs, where the lights are dim, the tables are close and the vibe just emanates clandestine cool. (Peasant, Elizabeth St. between Prince and Spring Sts.)

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