my 30th birthday was looming over my head for the past 2 weeks, and i honestly could care less. work's been a crazy bundle of deadlines and doc review, i upgraded to a bigger room in my apartment and have been wrangling with what to do in the new (and larger) space, and my body's been on a slow guerilla warfare revolt against me lately making me randomly sick at the most inopportune moments.
clearly, my birthday is at the bottom of my list of concerns. and, if you've read previous birthday posts, you would know how i strongly dislike planning anything for my bday. so when tuesday rolled around, i decided to make no announcement and just let it fly under the radar. my only plans were to catch dinner with Kiddo and Jorts, and that was only because Kiddo asked me on monday night whether i had dinner plans for tuesday (which i did not) although i have a standing appointment with Jorts every tuesday night to watch Savage U at 11 pm. since usually i make dinner for Jorts and i while drinking a bottle of wine, i invited Jorts to dinner as well so we could go straight to my place after dinner to watch the show.
understanding we all have budgetary concerns, i suggested dinner at Malatesta, which was recently added to my on-going list of places i want to try. and since Kiddo has an undying love for Max, i figured Malatesta would be a good way to switch it up, while still offering yummy italian for a reasonable price. so on a beautiful, tuesday evening, i headed over to the West Village to meet up with my friends for dinner.
i arrived first and left my name with the waitress. there was a woman before me, who also left her name for a party of 2 and was advised of a 15-minute wait. so i was a little surprised when i left my name for my party of 3 and was told i could be seated as soon as my party arrived. a little odd? yes. a red-flag? nope.
so i was very surprised when i saw Kiddo rounding the corner with a little posse consisting of MrsButtersworth, JimmyDean, and BlackSesame. SURPRISE! and a great one at that. i literally couldn't wipe the grin off my face for the rest of the evening. the best surprises are the ones that are completely unexpected.
plus, with a larger crowd, we could all eat more off the menu. Malatesta doesn't have a crazy long menu, but offers simple italian fare in a refreshing manner and style. on the day we went, it was perfect weather. the whole restaurant was an open space spilling out onto the sidewalk, which made me even more excited for the arrival of summer, when the sidewalk restaurant is available on almost every block of NYC.
we ordered to reasonably-priced bottles of red wine and an Artichoke Salad ($9-special of the day), Funghi di Prato ($10), and Cozze ($10-mussels with white wine and chopped tomato) for starters, although we'd probably also consumed about 4 plates of bread by the time we ordered it. the Artichoke Salad was perfect for a summer day, cold and refreshing although i thought the Funghi di Prato was better since the mushroom was warm with the melted mozzarella and a generous dressing of balsamic vinegar. the mussels were a good option, although i liked the sauce that remained after all the mussels had been eaten, ideal for bread dipping.
for entrees, we all branched out and had something a little different (except MrsButtersworth and Jorts). the Tagliatelle al Ragu ($14) would be the hands down favorite for that traditional and hearty italian flavor and flare. and although raviolis usually disappoint me (usually for the limited portion), the Ravioli al Formaggio ($13.50) was a decent sized portion for an average appetite and the pink sauce the raviolis were served with were a winner. JimmyDean opted for the Penne All' Arrabbiata ($11.50) which had a nice kick to it, spicier than i've usually had at other italian restaurants; and Kiddo opted for a nightly special, Seafood Spaghetti ($16), which seemed to comprise of a lot of mussels and a light tomato sauce (i'm sure if he'd known we might've ordered a different appetizer sans mussels).
all the reviews i'd read about Malatesta, and the fact that no one else was ordering it, meant that i ordered the Spinach Gnocchi ($14.50), which ended being a pretty big hit of the night. or at least all the forks that were plucking gnocchi from plate seemed to indicate such. although i'd been worried about the gorgonzola sauce being too thick or cheesy, it ended up being neither. i always want to order creamy pastas but then end up regretting it when, about a quarter of the way through, i become overwhelmed with the heaviness of the dish. but not so with this Spinach Gnocchi. and the serving was pretty generous, since my friends were definitely not shy about stabbing gnocchi for themselves, and yet there was plenty for myself and to be shared.
good friends, great food, a surprise bday dinner. what more could a girl ask for?