December 10, 2007 | Insatiable Critic

The Smith Dishes Up A Lot of Comfort


Comfort food by candle light under a Victorian derriere.  Photo: Steven Richter
Comfort food by candlelight under a Victorian derriere.                  Photo: Steven Richter


     In no time at all East Villagers have discovered The Smith, with its good honest el cheapo grub. Not to be confused with Smith or B. Smith’s or even Nevada Smith across the street. A week earlier it was almost empty.


     “Are your chips with gorgonzola as good as Bobby Flay’s?” we ask a hostess.


     “I would hope my chef is better and there’s no jalapeno in every dish,” she counters.


     Bobby needn’t worry. The too-thin chips melt into instant slog. It seems a minor lapse as we scarf up a ton of comfort in the super-crisp Alsatian pizza striped with creama, wonderful baked penne with meatballs and “almost burnt” mac ‘n’ cheese. I obsess all week about scraping that macaroni crust from the bottom of the pan. 


     Now we’re back Saturday night just a week later.  The joint is jumping -- stuffed with students from NYU and Cooper Union and an occasional elder. At the next table a four-year-old sleeps with her head on the table while her parents eat. No one can resist the chips.  I see big bowls of potential gorgonzola mush cutting a swath around us. Now we have to lean in to talk and repeat everything twice for our movie star pretty and unflappable waitress.  The big room looks good too, with photographs of Victorian nudes and acres of white tile (“Sort of faux Odeon,” our guest observes.) We all have to troop downstairs to see the old time photo booth (still working).

 Crusty macaroni, thin crisp pizza with crema and string bean salad. Photo: Steven Richter


     The tangy Moscow Mule ($8) and a very good Negroni ($9) tempt us to forgo our usual red wine. Starters like the fried egg on a chunk of fatty bacon and the irresistible macaroni (sent back this time for another hit of the broiler) make up for unremarkable fried calamari and simpering sweet wings. Do I really care?  Not now, as I dip into what could be the best gnoochi of the year – gratineed on top and afloat in cream. I consider not passing it on to my pals in our usual rotation. Still, I wonder how a kitchen capable of first-rate short ribs, this fine nut brown skate with Sicilian cauliflower, a juicy and well-seasoned pork chop and textbook moist chicken could turn out a slab of hanger steak so unchewable.


     But the joy of the steal returns with $5 sundaes – apple pie sundae and espresso with chocolate sauce -- and monster chocolate chip cookies, two of them for $5, warm from the oven.


55 Third Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets. 212 420 9800







Providing a continuous lifeline to homebound elderly New Yorkers