Last Saturday, before Sandy hit the city, I had the opportunity to go check out a restaurant to which I had never been before: Pisticci. The cute little Italian restaurant is tucked away on La Salle, just off Broadway. Being a few blocks up from Morningside Heights, the restaurant was a short walk away from campus. If you’re hailing from a little farther than Columbia, the nearest subway stop is 125th Street on the 1 train.

Inside, Pisticci is all charm and warmth. Orange-and-black paper chains were up for Halloween and one of the walls had a library façade à la my high school’s production of Beauty and the Beast. There was a lot of space in the restaurant’s multiple rooms and the general atmosphere was family-restaurant-meets-Italian-getaway. We were actually there for dinner, and as Pisticci doesn’t take reservations, there was a little bit of a wait. Although we were offered an alternative seat at the bar, we declined for a corner table near the windows.

The cold tap water was served from mason jars into elegant glasses, and the menus had giant sunflowers on them. The waitress ran off some specials and I told her about my food allergies. When I asked if there were any dishes that were easy to prepare without dairy—Italian food is always tricky—she said to let her know which dish I thought I would like, and she would ask the chef directly.

Pisticci prides itself on authentic Italian food, and many dishes were listed in their original Italian. The options were not overwhelming, but there was a wide range of antipasti, pasta dishes, and main entrées. According to their website, all the food is made fresh and from scratch, which explains the mysterious Italian-food-aromas wafting around. I asked if the maltagliati could be done without the ricotta, and she assured me it could!

Olive oil and bread came out, but I’m sorry to report that I was not able to get an ingredient check on the bread. The couple next to us was skeptical about the bread containing dairy, but as I told them, you can never be sure with severe allergies. The pasta, however, was great!

Maltagliati, according to the Internet, is a type of pasta made from leftover scraps of making actual pasta. This particular version looked like scraps of lasagna pieces that didn’t quite make the cut (haha, cut). The sauce was tomato-based with wilted spinach and shredded lamb, and was slightly spicy with a great texture. The portions were well suited for a nice meal out, but not enough for leftovers or a very hungry bear. However, such an appetite could be satisfied if you decide to add in some appetizers or some dessert.

Unlike most restaurants in Morningside Heights, the crowd consisted of less Columbia students and more neighborhood families. Students were still there in their Halloweekend costumes, but parents came with children for family dinners and professorial types seemed to be enjoying an evening off. All in all, the atmosphere was very relaxed and comfortable.

Pisticci was a great first restaurant for the Brunch with Bear team and they were very accommodating without incident. I would be interested in going back to check out some of the other dinner dishes, the sorbet options, and the brunch menu!


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