I used to live on the corner of E 3rd St and Avenue A, and I loved the neighborhood. This was before this blog existed, but I still was excited about the many food options available to me: Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches, Mama’s, and a 24-hour Key Food, among others. I was not, however, aware of the existence of Perbacco, an Italian restaurant that blends tradition and the avant-garde. Lucky for me my friends Jess & Garrett knew about it, and the three of us met there for dinner last week. Lucky for you also, because their photos came out much better than mine (click the link to their blog if you don’t believe me).
I started with what may be Perbacco’s signature dish the Crème brulée di Parmigiano Reggiano ($12). Yes, creme brulee can be an appetizer, when it’s a custard made with aged Parmigiano cheese and the sugar on top is combined with some Balsamic vinegar. This dish really speaks to Perbacco’s desire to be on the cutting edge of dining; the rich, cheese flavor matched well with the sharp sweetness of the top. Unfortunately the ramekin was perched precariously on a thin plate not quite big enough for it, which sent the ramekin swinging back and forth every time I dug into it. Very strange. I noticed it happened to another diner, so it wasn’t just my inherent clumsiness. Garrett asked me if I would order the dish again; I would, but I’d rather try some of the other appetizers first. I thought the dish was good, but not as ground-breaking as I wanted it to be.
It’s kind of funny that I got such a forward-thinking dish to start, because my main dish was almost peasant fare. Pizzoccheri is a buckwheat pasta rolled into crude twists, here paired with cabbage and potato ($15). It was all bound together by milky, almost gamey flavor of Bitto della Valtellina cheese. I was trying to nail down the flavor of this cheese, and in researching it I found that there is a bit of goat’s milk used in the cheese. It’s that touch that really brought the dish together — and further research indicates that this dish is firmly rooted in tradition.
We decided to go for dessert. Jess & Garrett decided to split the chocolate slider you see at the top of the page, which again illustrates Perbacco’s playfulness with food. The bun is angel food cake, the burger chocolate mousse, the onions were apples, the cheese was (I think) whipped cream, the fries were pear, the ketchup was a raspberry sauce, and the mayo was a ginger cream. It was light and delicious (no, I couldn’t resist trying it).
My dessert was a charlotte with chocolate and chestnuts ($9). This was rich and good, but nothing special. I didn’t really taste the chestnuts that were supposed to be encased with the chocolate under the soft biscuit, though the coffee and chocolate sauce was great. I wasn’t a big fan of the chocolate drizzle and chestnut bits scattered around the edge of the bowl. What is the diner supposed to do with items on the plate but not incorporated into the dish? I knocked the chestnut pieces into the chocolate broth.
I enjoyed the meal, and I enjoyed the company even more, but I haven’t mentioned one thing that hampered my enjoyment of the evening: the dining room at Perbacco was loud. I mean, not normal loud, but almost cacophonous. Although we were pressed together at our table (and Jess & Garrett were literally pressed against the wall) we still had to strain to be heard over the din of our fellow diners. Still, Perbacco was a lot of fun, and the prices are just right for what they serve. I really appreciated how the dishes walked the line between tradition and innovation, I just wish that the little details of the dining experience had been attended to.