I knew what to expect going into my dinner at Dell’anima in the West Village: A delicious Italian meal that would take advantage of in-season and local ingredients. I wasn’t expecting to have my socks knocked off. The reviews across websites range from “That was really good,” to “There was one plate that was disappointing.” But it’s rare to find a perfect restaurant in NYC. I figured, without ever having been there, it would be a solid place to take my mom for meal. I turned out to be correct.
When I arrived at six, the friendly hostesses were leaning against the doorway to chat before the dinner rush. Fresh flowers basked in the sun by the window. Dell’anima has the feel of a small, cozy farmhouse, with furniture in worn black wood. You can choose to sit in the main dining area, at the bar, or an elevated dining table that wraps around the open kitchen and lets you watch the chefs working.
While I waited for my mom to arrive, I asked the bartender for a recommendation for a crisp white wine. He poured me a glass of Kerner 2011, which turned out to be exactly what I wanted. I sipped and took in the smells of the kitchen wafting across the small dining room. On the bar shelves, I spied Crop Organic Vodka, as well as several brands of amaro and fernet branca on the top shelf, and organic whiskey. What I’m saying is, order a cocktail when you’re here.
The music was a carefully curated mix of Florence and the Machine, Empire of the Sun and 90s hip hop. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t so loud that it grated on my mom’s nerves. Once the dining room started filling up though, it was the conversation that got a little loud.
Dell’anima, which means “from the soul” in Italian, really does serve Italian soul food. It’s for those who like their food real, and rich. The menu included bone marrow, sweetbreads, rabbit, and octopus, along with plenty of fresh, light greens and vegetables for a balanced palate. To start, we ordered charred ramps with Calabrian chiles. (To not order ramps when they are in season is a punishable offense.) The ramps were a bit overwhelmed by the sharp garlic, but the tiny egg on top was an inspired touch. The lilac confit bruschetta we shared next was an unexpected joy. The gnocchi for my main dish had pulled rabbit buried among the pillows of potato. “I’ve never had gnocchi as delicate as that,” my mom said after she snatched a bite off my plate. Her tagliatelle was just as satisfying.
By the time we left at 7:30, it was crowded. Around us were 20 and early 30-something women chatting about their careers, and attractive and successful-looking couples on dates. I would say this is a solid pick for dinner date with your sig o. or a couple friends, though I wouldn’t recommend it for a larger group–it would be a little tight.