February 24, 2007 | BITE: My Journal

E. U. Seems More or Less Rounded Out

    It opened. It closed. It opened again, the chef left, big strum, a new chef is signed…I want to check out E.U. (for European Union) now that it seems more or less rounded out, chef Akhtar Nawab (late of Craftbar) at the range, new wine license landed. I don’t believe in curses that can’t be exorcised by a dose of giving-the-neighborhood what it wants.

    I've always admired Bob Giraldi, an innovator of commercials, music videos (Michael Jackson’s Beat It), movies (Dinner Rush), and as a restaurateur from the day he was a twosome with Phil Saurez (financial eminence behind Jean Georges Vongerichten), and they opened Positano in tiers (like the village itself) on Park Avenue South. Later to be transformed into Patria, Manhattan pied a terre for Douglas Rodriguez.

    Down and East to the newest real estate miracle in town, the lower east side is pockmarked with high-priced trendiness.  Good spot for E.U., though I’m rocked by the roar of over-amped music, palpating energizer for those too young to report hearing loss. I stagger backwards, almost ready to retreat.  But considering the mix of old and middle-aged fogeys that we are, we get a warm welcome and table to the right, which sits blissfully out of the main jet-sound stream.

    Points for the AvroKo look; studied rusticity, fat beams, rotted brick walls, smart filament light bulbs. Goes with the butcher paper placemat menu (that also gets torn up to line the tin pot that holds the bread and blot the fries). And points for the EuroAlliance reach, a new cuisine, just when we were running out of passport pages and ethnic variations to exploit. 

    I really like this food, well, most of it, though portions are somewhat meager. A teeny offering of olives. A mini ramekin of fabulous little pickles on the skimpy $18 charcuterie board. Love the lush voluptuous globes of sweetbread bruschetta and the baked rigatoni with milk-braised Berkshire pork, Swiss chard, and a smart hint of lemon. When you can count the rigatoni in your iron baking dish, doesn’t that seem a tad Scottish (are they even in the European Union)?  Prosciutto and parmesan make it a pretty good Italian burger (English and German are the other options), and the braised veal cheeks get a lift from crème fraiche, horseradish, and a non E.U. fluff of greens, though the potatoes are not cooked enough. Maybe the greens accidently fell off a salad en route.

    There’s a flight of beers to taste, good thought with this rough-hewn cooking, though we’re sticking to our usual red wine. Either we’ve ordered well or the kitchen is good…hard to say on just one visit. With a junior sized stick toffee pudding and caramel gelato, and an aberrant linzer torte, comes an offering of fortified pineau charentes. Strong after-dinner tipple.  Have I been recognized or is this the house reward for sticking it out?  If I lived close enough, I would probably come back. 

235 East 4th Street near Avenue B. 212 254 2900  


Cafe Fiorello

Patina Restaurant Group