On Sunday evening, the girls and I convened at La Lanterna, in the West Village, to celebrate S’s birthday. Unfortunately, she was fighting food poisoning from earlier in the weekend, so I think the rest of us enjoyed the outing more than she did. Nonetheless, the food must be eaten, so here’s the account of our lovely evening:
We were seated in the back garden area, which is quite atmospheric. My only gripes with the surroundings were that the furniture was, well, garden-style—i.e., patterned iron. That meant the chairs were not very comfortable (cushions might have helped) and the table was far, far too small for the food we ordered.
I arrived first, and after ignoring me for a while, the waiter finally came over and brought some water. I requested a few pieces of bread, as I was starving, which he brought relatively quickly. The bread itself was very standard white bread, and it came on one tiny plate… no individual bread plates or anything, despite the fact that the accompaniment was olive oil and not butter. To accommodate the pool of olive oil, I balanced the other pieces of bread around the edges of the tiny plate so they wouldn’t get soggy. Oh well. I was ravenous.
When the others arrived, we set to work ordering a large variety of food. A and SL started with the cheese plate, selecting Stracchino, Fontina, Piave, and one other hard cheese (pecorino?). The cheese plate arrived with the standout item of the dinner: a basket of their freshly-baked focaccia crisps. These were crunchy and salty and olive oil-y—so, so addictive and good. I’d recommend La Taverna just on the basis of these crisps (they come with the cheese plate but can also be ordered separately for $4.50). The cheese plate itself provided a relatively generous portion of each of the cheeses, and the fact that the soft cheeses came in gelato cups amused me unendingly throughout the meal.
Along with the cheese, A and SL split the arugula and parmesan salad, which I had for my entrée. I ordered mine with the lemon dressing on the side. The dressing was surprisingly good—very flavorful and not too oily. And the arugula was tiny and fresh, nicely complemented by the salty parmesan. A very good salad, certainly.
For entrees, which arrived after the salads and cheese were gone, A and SL ordered pizzas. A got the arribiata with the addition of mushrooms. SL went with the white pesto pizza. Both were enjoyed thoroughly and were quite large portions for an individual to tackle.
S gamely ordered the caprese salad. The mozzarella looked very fresh and creamy, and the tomatoes were vibrantly red. S said the salad was good but not as incredible as it looked. Oh well; a good caprese is a good caprese.
We were all pretty stuffed full of carbs by the end of the entrée round, so we decided to forgo dessert. Overall, the food and atmosphere at La Taverna are definitely praiseworthy—on a beautiful night, nothing beats sitting outside in a secluded garden, eating delicious Italian food with your good friends. The service was thoroughly “meh”— our server was pleasant enough, but I think throughout the course of the meal we asked for water a total of 5 or 6 times (the water glasses are tiny and there is nobody responsible for filling them except your waiter). Also worth noting is the fact that they include the tip in your bill, so if you go watch out so you don’t overtip. On balance, I’d say La Taverna deserves a high three Offset Spatulas—for good food, very reasonable prices, pleasant not-too-upscale ambiance, and distracted service.
N.B. La Lanterna has a downstairs bar where there is live jazz every night. It would be a great place to take a date, but if you don’t want to pay the $10 cover, be sure to visit the bathrooms for a free listen.
La Lanterna Caffe
129 MacDougal Street at W. 3rd St.