Neighborhood: Little Italy
Venue: Italian Restaurant
Atmosphere: Families, Casual
Foursquare Check-in: 4sq.com/1hbKmh0
Rating: 3 Stars
In my quest to find a reliable italian place, La Mela has certainly joined the list of contenders. Even though I’m only giving it 3 stars, don’t let that take away from the fact that the food here was excellent. My 3-star rating is probably deflated, because of the high expectations that I had for La Mela. I was actually rolling here from Skyroom, where I damn near starved to death, and my friends said this was THE italian spot. And even though my expectations were extremely high, La Mela lived up to them–for the most part.
Because I’m still in the quest for a go-to italian restaurant, I didn’t get too fancy with the menu in my first trip to La Mela. I wanted to see if the place could deliver on the staples of my quintessential, simple, italian meal. So I started off with some calamari. They didn’t mess that up. And really, that’s all I ask. While it is pretty damn hard to mess up calamari, you could be surprised by how many restaurants in Italy butcher it up.
While eating my calamari, I had to have me some fine italian bread. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it. This is the one knock I have against La Mela, and that knock probably cost the restaurant any chance at actually becoming my go-to italian spot.
It’s hard to call yourself an italian restaurant and your bread isn’t on point. First, the bread was cold, which can sometimes be okay, but it’s a hard factor to overcome. Second, it was really dry. And when I say really dry, I mean in a way that neither butter nor olive oil could solve. And third, it was bland. I’ve been to some mom & pop places in New York City where you could literally come in, dine on some bread and butter, and be content going home without even looking at a main dish.
While La Mela failed on the bread, the Little Italy eatery made up for it with one of my staple italian dishes: Fettuccine Alfredo with Roasted Chicken. That’s a very kid-like, newbie meal, but if an italian restaurant can’t make that, then I don’t want anything to do with it. That’s been my staple dish for quite some time, and as simplistic as it may be, sometimes it’s all I want out of a routine trip to an italian restaurant.
La Mela’s take on the dish was rustic and on point. The chicken was amazingly roasted, and not just some cutup chicken breast that most places throw in the Alfredo sauce at the last moment. And the Alfredo sauce itself had a zesty, tasty, not-too-cheesy flavor to it. And La Mela managed to avoid making their sauce too thin, which some places tend to do. All and all, La Mela did “Fettuccine Alfredo” the way it was meant to be done, and because of that, they get to stay in the running for my go-to italian spot.
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