649 Washington St
(between Christopher St & 10th St)
New York, NY 10014
Homey, Hearty, And Homemade
On a quiet, unsuspecting corner of the West Village sits a little Italian restaurant that has stolen my heart.
Malatesta is cozy and welcoming. You feel at home from the minute you walk in. The flickering of candles in little white paper bags gives each table a magical glow. And the modest, handwritten menus come rubber-banded to a thin slab of wood.The service at Malatesta is outstanding. The waiters are very attentive accommodate to your needs. When the weather gets nicer you can also sit at the outside tables that line the perimeter of the restaurant.
Okay, on to the good stuff. The food...oh the food. Most of the pastas are homemade and the spinach gnocchi with gorgonzola gets rave reviews, so ordering was pretty much a no-brainer. But before we get to the main course, let's start with the appetizers. We ordered classic bruschetta and mussels in white wine sauce with tomatoes. The bruschetta was very tasty and seasoned perfectly...a great way to start the meal. The mussels, on the other hand, were pretty disappointing. Now, I really love mussels, but these were a bit on the larger side and tasted like seawater. My third (and last one) was a little gritty as well. But let's be real, I wasn't there for the mussels.
To say that I'm obsessed with gnocchi would be putting it mildly. So, both times I've been to Malatesta, I've gotten the famed spinach gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. And in all honestly, I don't think I'd ever get anything else. Why mess with a good thing? The gnocchi literally melts in your mouth and the gorgonzola sauce is creamy and not overbearing. Since the dishes are pretty large, I like to get 1 pasta and 1 meat dish and share them. This time around I also tried the veal meatballs. Five meatballs come served on a bed of Marinara sauce, accompanied by 2 slices of bread. The meatballs were great! (Not the BEST I've ever had, but very savory and tasty.) And a nice accompaniment to the creamy pasta.
The couple we were with tried the gnocchi with marinara sauce and the papardelle fra diavlo. I tried both, and both were also very good and tasted extremely fresh. We actually got a table close to the open kitchen, so I got to see a lot of the dishes being prepared. It was really cool to see how the chef would precisely cut thin rolls of pasta dough and (just like a party streamer) out would come a string of papardelle.
To end the meal off, we got coffee and dessert. The espresso was very good. Strong and flavorful. They don't have American coffee, but they can make lattes and cappuccinos. We also tried the tiramisu. I would have been fine without it, actually. The cake was a little too dry for my tastes and they covered the whole thing in way too much whipped cream. But again, I certainly wasn't there for the dessert.
If this place knows how to do something well--extremely well--it's the pasta. So as long as you stick with what they're good at, you'll be full and satisfied.