Oh my. What a scene!
If you’re looking for a spot that gathers all of the people who live in New York City that you knew in your twenties (even though you’re well into your 30’s), go to Lavo, a mecca for scenesters who never really got over the scene. So, why was I there, you ask? Well, because I didn’t know any better…
I should’ve done my homework. If I had, I would’ve learned that Lavo is owned by the same group responsible for Tao and the original Lavo is in Las Vegas—always a red flag. These things would have given me reservation pause. But alas, I did not know. Then, I arrived, greeted by hordes of suited men waiting on tables. They line the bar, they line the walls, and they all nod to get your attention for a drink. On check-in with the hostess, you’re handed a Cheesecake Factory-like beeper to notify you that your table is ready. Really? More pause. But if you can look past this adulterated, meat market of a start, Lavo gets better. After you actually sit down for your meal.
The food at Lavo is old school Italian. The menu is massive—everything-and-the-kitchen-sink kind of massive—selections run from raw bar items to pizzas, salads, pastas, and include a comprehensive steak and lobster section. It’s overwhelming, sure, but portions are large enough to create a family style meal and share all the dishes calling your name. Del Posto Lavo is not, but you won’t leave hungry, and you’ll likely be satisfied with your meal. And if you’re a scenester, you’ll definitely be back for another round.
Begin with a few starters. The excellent tuna tartare ($16) has just the right amount of avocado, while the beet salad with goat cheese and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette ($14) was crisp and savory, and pleased the more health-conscious at the table. The standout, however, was the bowling ball-sized meatball with fresh whipped ricotta ($20), soft to the cut and rich in flavor. The tomato sauce was seasoned with the right amount of garlic and the dollop of ricotta didn’t drown the meat. While the brick oven pizzas looked delicious as they were being served to other tables, the spinach and artichoke variety ($21) that we choose missed the mark. It had too much topping, unnecessary olives, and a soggy crust.
The pastas were very good, especially the spaghetti carbonara ($24). It was the right mix of pecorino, pepper, and proscuitto, and for red sauce pasta, the rigatoni melenzana ($24) with eggplant and bufala mozzarella was a good compliment. The chicken parmigiana ($28) was presented on a large platter and smothered in cheese, sending our salivary glands into a tizzy. Sadly, it was pounded too thin and the actual cutlet was bland, but I was the only one who cared about this. When I looked around, all of our plates were licked clean. As a side dish, throw in some greens and order the sauteed broccoli rabe or asparagus ($10).
If you have room for dessert, there’s one item that soars above the rest: the Oreo zeppoli. Yep, it’s exactly what it sounds like—Oreos fried in zeppoli dough. Served with an unforgettable vanilla milk shake, if the scene or the food don’t grab you, this might be just the reason to return to Lavo.