Hatin’ on gypsum, too

I typed this months ago but keep thinking about it, so I swung by the Union Square Greenmarket (motto this time of year: “All this useful beauty”) on a Wednesday to see if it was still boiling up. And, yes, it is, with even more events:

So we’re finishing up our rigatoni with ragu, dainty eggplant parm and awesome garlic dots on a Saturday at Pasta Flyer and I’m bloviating about why the concept is genius for a chef — he can create the menu, develop the recipes and technology, staff up and take weekends off. Then Mr. Curious, the guy I sleep with, goes back to the counter to ask how long it takes to cook the pasta (15 seconds) and how (water’s constantly boiling). One of the five staffers says, “You can ask Chef. He’s right there.” And Mark Ladler was indeed in the kitchen, dumping a big pot of ragu out and looking quite pleased with himself.

I’d been wanting to try the fast-pasta place ever since we wound up with friends (after the amazing “Faces Places” at the Quad) at a seriously mediocre Syrian place nearby. That night I didn’t argue for it because I thought it would have no atmosphere. But maybe it has too much. The design is subtly dazzling, with upholstered benches and rustic-looking tables and chairs and tulips in vases and a huge black-and-white photo of Rome with a flying saucer dominating the room (the bathroom is just as wild). Planters are filled with wheat sheaves, the main lighting fixture is Del Posto-evocative. In any other neighborhood the joint would be jammed. (I wish I could argue for the UWS, but I’m not that dumb.)

When we walked in we were given samples of fried mozzarella sticks in a fabulously spicy tomato sauce, a special of two for $1? Our whole meal came to about $13, and it was enough for both of us. Servers delivered the dishes and cleared the table, and one came around afterward with a little pill cup with three chocolate-covered espresso beans (“to help the digestion”). Both the denteness of the rigatoni and the restraint of the ragu were Italy-worthy. I read about the garlic knots while waiting in the deliberately slow line at Di Palo so had new appreciation for what were essentially Italian gougere.

So it was fascinating to come home and read up on “real” critics’ reactions. The same people who slaver over McD’s/Dunkin’/Taco Bell are so harsh when top chefs try to reinvent the genre.

The $7-a-glass wine looked good & there was a loyalty card on offer. WIGB? Absolutely. Even after a movie.