To be honest, Pagani is a restaurant I had never planned to step foot inside. While Bleecker is my favorite street, for some reason I wasn’t enticed, until I heard about their live music series and flamenco on Wednesday nights. This corner restaurant did exactly what every restaurant should strive for: making customers feel like the owners have invited you into their own home and personalizing your experience. If you watch the owner, Massimo Lusardi, who also participates in the band, he has a giant grin on his face the entire night. He bounces from table to table greeting guests and a packed room full of friends who make a point to come see him and eat his simple, Italian cuisine. It’s hard trying new restaurants in New York especially when you haven’t read much about a place because chances are it’s not the best in town or you would have heard about it (although some chefs just get more attention than others). However, Pagani proved me completely wrong and showed me that there are great restaurants that do exist that aren’t crafting something crazy like a truffle pizza or ramen burger. For example, Pagani here is shoveling out great, clean food that you could eat every day and not get sick of. The menu is a combination of American and Italian dishes you’ve seen anywhere and while nothing specific might make your tongue hang out, you’ll love everything. I like how there are five different salads to choose from and great protein appetizers if you want to munch on something light. The pastas are handmade, and there are the typical Italian snacks like Baked Veal Meatballs and Arancini that are hard to resist.
You want oysters? They got ’em. Charred Octopus appetizer? It’s here. Bolognese Pappardelle and a Beef Brisket with Brussels Sprouts and Potato Puree? Sold. Seriously, you can come here when you want your greens and you can come here when you want your red sauce. There is no pressure to order the “winning” cronut dish as you can always get in and come back at your own pace. That’s why this place is so attainable and real to me. I loved the Grilled Artichokes Salad with arugula, toasted walnuts, mint. lemon zest and a goat cheese crostino. For a group of four a couple salads, octopus and a side of Roasted Cauliflower fed everyone well and happily to start. All of these are medium sized portions and enough for all to receive multiple servings. They are light and nutritious and allow you to leave room for a pasta or other entree.
Chicken can seem like a waste of an entree but not when it’s called Folded Chicken and stuffed with parmesan, grape tomatoes, spinach and dried figs. While you can probably make this at home, we know you aren’t going to on the regular. I could eat this guiltless dish several nights a week and feel like I was eating a home cooked meal. Pagani isn’t trying to be something it’s not, and the food on the table is the food you’d want on your plates at home.
There are several rooms at Pagani and lots of movement. The bar area overlaps with a few dining room tables and booths. The back room then leads to a space that would be perfect for a private event but not as fun to be in on a regular night because the bar area is where it’s a happening and social spot and also where the entertainment and music take place. So that next time you need a place to go where the food is pretty good, the vibe is positively contagious and you can walk in on any given night to get a table without waiting hours in the West Village, you know where to check. Pagani, you tricked me into liking you, and I’m not mad about it!