Last night I had some spare time between operas while in NY and decided to venture several blocks further away from Lincoln Center to ARTE CAFE at 108 West 73rd Street (at Columbus Ave; tel 212-501-7014 www.nycrg.com). It was worth the 10 minute walk even in the bitter cold as ARTE CAFE is a warm wood paneled secret with exposed brick walls and lots of black and white photos of (famous?) people. At first I was worried with the underwhelming bread and olive oil, but my worries disappeared when my appetizer of PULPO arrived. The most tender pieces of Portuguese OCTOPUS sauteed along with CHIVES, FAVA BEANS, CHERRY TOMATOES and small diced NEW POTATOES. It was simply delicious, although there were two pieces of hard as a rock crostini under the dish which I skipped completely (I guess they have a bread problem). My glass of SANTA STEFANO MONTEPULICANO d'ABREZZO was a medium bodied red and perfect with the rich seafood as well as my super-rich entree: STROZZAPRETI con SUGO di CINGHIALE. I have not had Strozzapreti since I visited Urbino in Italy many years ago (where I believe they originated). The word literally means "priest stranglers" although the heavy pasta is shaped like the hats of priests in Italy many centuries ago--long flat boards all curved up on the sides. They were superbly made and the Wild Board Meat was slow cooked with huge chunks of Porcini Mishrooms in a Chianti Sauce...superb, and a steal at under $15!
Indeed, all the prices here are quite low. No wonder the place was jammed by 630pm, and with all sorts of people from young couples on dates to families with kids aged 5 to 25!