February 23, 2010

Zampa on West 13th: Graphics and grub make the grade


Lunch at Zampa Wine Bar + Kitchen, in the West Village is a well-designed affair. The restaurant’s 306 West 13th Street storefront is decorated with frosted-glass graphic illustrations of wine bottles, hanging cheeses, smoked pig parts, and a butcher’s map of a hog. It looks like an architect’s rendering of a pork-loving eater’s mind, and in fact it is, sort of. The mastermind behind both this inspired front and the interior of Zampa is West Village resident, architect and designer Hassan Abouseda. His fingerprints are all over Zampa, accounting for the urban cool (Eames chairs, a zig-zag walnut bar) that was soothing and revivifying on the snowy day that we visited. The menu and Italian wine list are reasonably priced and highly appealing, and hold up the food drink end of the experience nicely.

As I was dining with yet another newly unemployed journalist friend, instead of a menu-sweeping tour, we opted for a light lunch of bruschetta, egg salad sandwich with cornichons, dill and greens; panini with grilled shiitake mushrooms, Taleggio, truffle oil and baby arugula. The tomatoes in the bruschetta were surprising fresh-tasting, given the season, aided by a good kick of garlic and salt, and the panini was just fine: earthy, creamy and a little bit bitter.

Day manager Alex Silva says the most popular dishes are the beef and pork lasagna with bĂ©chamel sauce and porcini ($14 for lunch) and the Panini ($7.5 to $8.5 for lunch). Chef Alessandro (Sandro) Prosperi grew up near Florence and learned to cook with his mother and sisters. He and partner Daniel Emerman (the design eye of the team) first made their name with the TriBeCa restaurant Barroco and also run Bottino at W. 23rd and 10th Streets in Chelsea. Prosperi and Emerman have their finger on the pulse of the times; like Corsino, their prices are affordable, and they deliver the kind of well-made, simple comfort foods that the West Village seems to want now.