Walking into Bleeker Street’s Bianca, you are instantly transported to what a bustling Tuscan restaurant 20-years-ago would resemble. They are unapologetically busy, and rightfully so: the fare at Bianca’s is delectable. While their menu is intrinsically simple, the freshness of their homemade farm-to-table ingredients make each dish memorable.
I dined at Bianca for the first time last Saturday evening with three of my best friends, two of which are native diners of the establishment. The smell of sautéed garlic, fresh egg pasta and simmering tomatoes was infectious as soon as you walked through the door. The restaurant was smaller than I had anticipated, but very welcoming, almost as if you were walking into your Grandma’s home. The hustle, bustle and chatter were energizing. After happily waiting for almost two hours for our table, we were ushered to our seats and glanced over the menu as we salivated over our options.
I truly appreciate the simplicity of most menus – the few select ingredients are able to shine and you can assume that the dish is perfectly crafted for each aspect to really shine. All four of us ordered pasta dishes with the “Gnocco Fritto” and a special of buffalo mozzarella caprese to begin. The Gnocco are fried pillows of dough, perfectly crisped while still maintaining their chewy texture that dough is meant to have. The buffalo mozzarella was creamy and room temperature, as it should be served and the tomatoes were perfectly acidic and not one bit mealy, even though they are not yet in season.
I ordered the Ravioli di Ricotta con Burro e Salvia (ricotta ravioli in a butter and sage sauce), which was to die for. The pasta was light and flavorful, and the ricotta and spinach filling was perfectly seasoned. The butter and sage sauce was the perfect combination for the delicate nature of the ravioli. Two of my companions ordered the Lasagna – a traditional Italian go-to. To say that their plates were wiped clean would be an understatement; I’m pretty sure they would have enjoyed the plate if they could as well. The portion size was perfect: not unappetizingly large, but not three bites either. Our other friend ordered the fettuccine with Bolognese sauce. A heaping bowl of fresh-cut pasta smothered in meat sauce was delivered and he had no trouble finishing the entire portion. It smelled like the perfect mixture of acidity and creaminess – all that a great Bolognese should be.
Any good meal should always be finished with dessert; at least that’s my outlook on the topic. It doesn’t hurt that I also have a special stomach for all-things sweet, and this, can never finish a dining experience without trying to ‘sweetest’ part of the menu. I forced my fellow-dining companions into splitting the Ricotta Cheesecake with me and we were not disappointed. Perfectly dense, but lighter than your traditional cheesecake, the ricotta hit the spot (notice the cheese trend in all our courses: my kryptonite).
All-in-all, Bianca was well worth the wait – the service, the ambiance and most importantly, the cuisine was some of the best Italian food that I’ve eaten outside of Italy. Things to note: Bianca is cash only. The bar next door will feed you booze and the lovely owner of Bianca will come find you himself when your table is ready … now that’s good service!