In New York City trying out new restaurants is like riding in a fleet of unreliable taxistransporting one night, an ordeal of wrong turns the next. Most places just thankfully disappear into the darkness, never to be seen again: About 70 percent of restaurants close or change hands within five years of opening. When checking out a new spot, I've found it best to keep my expectations low. I've broken this rule only once: From my first visit, I've been devoted to Bar Pitti, a Tuscan place in Greenwich Village.
My first meal there, crostini with chicken liver pâté, was really more of a snack, albeit the kind usually consumed with a glass of Chianti Classico by those lucky enough to be whiling away an afternoon in Florence. The bread, with a chewy, almost malty crust, was grilled and topped with a generous spread of house-made pâté, which was seasoned in a way that didn't mask the mineral flavor of the liver. Before I even took a bite, I was impressed. On my plate were no pedestrian parsley sprigs or crisscrossing lines of sauce from a squeeze bottle. I had ordered crostini with chicken liver pâté, which is exactly what I was served.
That was in 1992. I had moved to New York City the previous fall to live with a boyfriend whom I had been dating for about a year (my prudent rule about restaurants never applied to men). It was late summer, but I remember little or no humidity that day. The weather was what I would call forthrightlots of sunshine and not a cloud in sight. The boyfriend and I were making the rounds of his favorite Village haunts, mostly comic book shops and record stores. We found ourselves hungry in the limbo hours between lunch and dinner, when a good meal is especially hard to find. That's when I saw Bar Pittiit was new, though I didn't know it at the timewith its glass doors opening onto a block of Sixth Avenue where the sidewalk is unusually wide and there's plenty of space for all'aperto dining. Eating outdoors seemed particularly appropriate given the weather and the context of romance. I was 24, and as I sat there looking at this young man, backlit by the sun, I was hoping I'd made the right decision.