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“Dani-- Closed Now”

  Occasion: Cuisine: Area: Cost: Rating:
  Night Out Italian Tribeca Moderate Great

A new Italian restaurant in New York City is about as exciting as the arrival of another Starbuck’s. But things get a lot more interesting when the paradigm is shifted just slightly—when angled toward Sicily, infused with the flavors of North Africa, and when the chef is a Don Pintabona, who manned the stoves at Tribeca Grill for a decade. In this unexpectedly altered Italian state, Dani is one of the most welcome and surprising arrivals of 2006. Lit with moody amber bulbs, it is rich with raw organic elements—slate, wood, and wrought iron, a cool backdrop for an eclectic mix of serious suits, and hipsters in overpriced jeans. Dani’s menu is as pleasing as its surroundings. We started with a gorgeous puck of fresh ricotta cheese, made in house and sprinkled with a dusting of ground Marcona almonds, and glossed with wild flower honey ($9). The octopus ($9) was spectacular—one of the best in the city—served in a cast iron pot, braised till tender, then given some texture from a quick char on the grill, and tossed with roasted potatoes, parsley, oregano and a bright splash of sherry vinegar. I could not stop eating it. But I did for a salad of wild chicory that was topped with a perfectly poached four-minute egg, shaved Pecorino Romano, and a gentle anchovy vinaigrette ($9). The bucatini con sarde ($16) was also exceptional. Cooked to al dente, it is coated in the bold Sicilian trio—fennel, sardines, and currants. North Africa gets some love in a terrific cod Tagine, with fluffy cous cous and a raisin and caper stew ($21). My favorite dishes were both the simplest on the menu—a giant pork chop, pounded thin, Milanese style, and crusted in sage breadcrumbs and served with apple mostarda and a black fig sauce ($19), and a layered escarole gratin ($6), a rustic homey side dish I would have eaten as a main course. What a pleasure to find something new in what seems so familiar.

Dani is located at 333 Hudson Street, corner of Charlton


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