Volume 74, Number 32 | December 15 - 21, 2004


Trattoria Oreste
64 Carmine St.
212-675-8736
entrees from $12 to $16.75

Villager photo by Frank Angelino

Manager Mario Cipriani, left, and Chef Ramon Abreu

Enticing Northern Italian eatery opens on Carmine St.

By Frank Angelino

Trattoria Oreste is a comfortable, new eatery on the western end of Carmine Street in the Village. Its owner, Enzo Bevilacqua, a native of Genoa Italy, has operated Marinella, an Italian bistro, across the street for many years.  Trattoria Oreste’s head chef is Ramon Abreu who, two decades ago as opening chef of Cent Anni another popular Carmine Street place, fashioned a satisfying brand of Northern Italian cooking there.

The distillation of Bevilacqua and Abreu’s experience is Trattoria Oreste, a neat, well-designed dining room with wood floors and brick walls set a few steps up from the street.  Several tables by the front windows take in the typical Village street scene.

There are two focal points in the dining room, the mahogany bar on the left and the rustic brick oven in the rear.  The oven is where many of the trattoria’s hearty dishes are prepared, as well as where over a half dozen traditional Italian pizzas (such as Margherita, salsiccia and quatro staggoni) are authentically served up with savory toppings and crispy charred crusts.

Chef Abreu’s style of cooking is homey, with dishes characterized by concentrated flavors.  He’ll make baby artichokes alla Giudea when the vegetable is available.  The artichokes are turned out crisp and full of garlic and herbs.

The chef likes to make a combination of hot appetizers, such as an unusual and succulent stuffed onion, rolled eggplant stuffed with ricotta, and panissa, a chick pea polenta which is served hot with salame or shrimp.  All are superior.

Other appetizers are spiedino alla Romana, egg dipped bread stuffed with mozzarella and served with an anchovy sauce.  (This dish is increasingly hard to find on Italian restaurant menus as tastes and preferences evolve.)

Soups are substantial in nature with Pasta e fagioli, ortolana (cabbage, beans and toast,) and minestrone di verdure, the famous vegetable soup from Genoa, representing the trattoria’s typical selection.

The chef is adept preparing subtly sauced pastas.  Probably the most popular pasta dish at the trattoria is penne (or sometimes pappardelle) with tender chunks of chicken.  The ever popular “bucatini all Amatriciana, or thick spaghetti pierced with a tiny hole is served with a spicy pancetta, onion and tomato sauce. Linguine with very small Italian clams; spinach and cheese ravioli with a sauce of pureed nuts; and risotto with porcini mushrooms or with asparagus are other selections.

Chef Abreu excels with his entrees many of which are roasted in the brick oven which brings out intense flavors. Coniglio alla Fiorentina are pieces of cut up rabbit stewed until juicy tender in a wine sauce enriched with chopped carrots, onions and celery.  Filet of sole is served Marechiaro style with a light tomato and white wine sauce.  Halibut alla cartoccio is filet of halibut sealed in parchment paper and cooked with onions and white wine that emits a wonderful aroma when the parchment is opened.

For game lovers, the highlight of a meal at Trattoria Oreste is when they have a daily special of roasted pheasant.  Roasted in the brick oven, the pheasant is delectably sweet tasting and aromatic with fresh rosemary.

The trattoria has a good selection of principally Italian wines.  A hard to find Albana di Romagna (from the province of Bologna) is a white wine that pairs well with many of the fish and game dishes. Desserts range from the predictable gelatos and sorbets to a cold zabagione with strawberries.  One unique dessert to this trattoria is the Black Forest cake, a confection of whipped cream, sweet cherries and chocolate.

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