Crispo is a gorgeous Italian joint down on 14th Street near 8th Avenue. My buddy and his girlfriend have been coming here for years. I had never heard of it, but when he told me about it, I knew we had to try it out together as a group.
We started with a bunch of apps. For that reason, and because I knew we were also going to eat pasta and steak, I took it easy on the delicious and generously portioned table bread.
First, we had a sampler app trio of speck, aged goat cheese and mozzarella rice balls. The meat and cheese came with dried fig and an apricot/fennel jam. Both the speck and the cheese were great, top quality products.
The rice balls were addicting. You can easily catch yourself popping a bunch of these in a row without even realizing what’s going on. They were perfectly fried to a golden crisp on the outside, and the inside was both firm from the rice yet oozing with delicious melty fresh mozzarella cheese. Not heavy, salty or greasy, which is the opposite of what you sometimes get when these are done wrong.
The next app was a nice, simple fried calamari. This also came with fried zucchini. There was a cornmeal aspect to the breading here, which made for a nice crisp crunch. That’s fried parsley on top, too.
Our favorite app was this crispy pork belly topped with a melted gorgonzola-stuffed fig. Underneath the pork belly was crispy polenta, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
This was one of the most tasty apps I’ve had in a while. In fact, I think this could be an incredibly successful entree as well if just magnified in proportion. Seriously, I could eat this all day. The fat is cut with the acid, and the funk of the cheese takes the flavors off onto a ride that’s more wild than the fucking Great Space Coaster.
So after all of that, we were finally ready for some pasta. This place seems to be somewhat famous for two pasta dishes in particular: the Spaghetti Carbonara and the truffle ravioli. I know what you’re thinking. “Spaghetti Carbonara? I can get that crap at any halfway decent Italian joint.” But here’s the rub: most Italian joints fuck up their Carbonara with cream, making a dense, salty and overly-heavy pasta eating experience. Real Carbonara, from what I understand, doesn’t have any dairy, other than the cheese you grate over the top! The creaminess is achieved via egg yolk.
Break the yolk, mix it around a bit, and you’re ready to rock. Just sprinkle in a green veggie and some crispy pig bits. I must say, this Carbonara was divine, and like none I’ve ever really tasted before. Not only was the pasta cooked just right, but the ingredients were well-balanced, and nothing was too salty. A big problem I usually have with Carbonara is sweating like a pig while I eat, because of all the FFFFFFFFFFUCKING salt that’s usually in it…
The hand made truffle ravioli were nice and al-dente, served in a simple brown butter type sauce, and the portion was large for a very reasonable price. I was expecting like six somewhat large ravioli in the bowl, not a dozen.
Now to the meat. My wife and I shared the New York Strip steak, which was simply grilled and then topped with a mound of red wine reduced onions.
The steak was cooked perfectly to medium rare.
While I wasn’t a huge fan of the onions (I’m a purist), I did find myself going into them every so often out of an enjoyed curiosity. The meat itself was nice, tender and flavorful. 8/10.
The steak also came with parmesan herb fries. These were really crispy, and the parmesan acts as a cheese-funk seasoning that replaces the standard salt. Very nice.
Last, we had some creme brûlée, pot de creme and pistachio gelato. I didn’t snap the gelato pic for some reason, but I did pull the trigger on the cremes (the two come in one dessert order – bonus).
I was blown away by the quality of the food here, the service, the ambiance and decor, and the portion sizes. I’m ashamed that this place never made it onto my radar in all its years in operation. But not just that: the prices are really fair. All of the food described here, plus about two or three alcoholic drinks per person (wine, cocktails, beer, after dinner drinks), plus a round of coffee for everyone with dessert, only came to $105 per person, with tax and tip included (we had four people at the table total). I was shocked.
Needless to say, I’ll definitely be back here, because there is a lot of shit on the menu that I want to try (like the pork shank).
240 W 14th St
New York, NY 10011