Heralding a new series for yours truly, carrying a college wallet with a bougie appetite. This week, we’ll be kicking things off with an NYU favorite, San Marzano.
Many Americans have grown up with nights out at a local Italian restaurant fixed up with cheap wine and that delicious bread that leaves a maddening amount of crumbs all over the tablecloth. However, over the past couple of years, a new wave of fine-dining Italian eateries have been popping up all over, featuring high-end ingredients and high prices as well. San Marzano, located in the East Village on Second Avenue, stands out from the crowd. Featuring a cross between a clean modern and a vintage rustic aesthetic, the restaurant offers a pleasant atmosphere to enjoy a meal with one or two friends. Down to the details of the apothecary-esque drawers filled with little notes on napkins or receipts that line the wall, the place obviously has personality.
Judging based on looks alone, I would not have been surprised if I had to spend over 20 dollars on an entree. However, San Marzano has been able to maintain low prices without sacrificing the high quality of its food.
“The owner never changes [the prices],” said a server at the restaurant. “He knows that all the college kids like to come in for a cheap meal.”
The pasta is absolutely worth any wait you might face, and chances are you’ll be waiting for at least an hour if you go on the weekends or during peak hours on a weeknight. All appetizers are just $7, and they are perfect for splitting. The brussel sprouts are a personal favorite, balancing the char of the sprouts, the salt of the pancetta and the surprising sweetness of the apple perfectly into one delicious bite. For entrees, the restaurant gives you the option to choose a combination of its fresh, in-house pastas with a sauce for only $10. There’s no wrong choice with the sauces, though the pesto is one of the best I’ve ever had. It’s super smooth and not oily at all, while the vecchia bettola is bursting with fresh tomato flavor. Even the wild boar ragu hits the spot as the hearty boar compliments the saltiness of pecorino cheese. San Marzano also offers a variety of panini, but you’re better off sticking with the pasta.
When sitting down for a meal at San Marzano with a close friend or two, it is easy to pretend that you’re an adult with a real, paid job and who has their life together rather than just another college student with $15.76 in their bank account.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 26 print edition. Email Scott Hogan at [email protected]