Some days you crave pasta. Not boxed pasta with thin marinara from a jar, but meaty, creamy goodness, which you do not have the patience, energy or ability to produce. Pepe Rosso To Go is the answer to that problem. Nestled at the southern edge of Greenwich Village, Pepe Rosso is a pint-sized Italian restaurant where you can eat or order for takeout. Whether it’s after work or during your lunch hour, this spot provides affordable in-house pasta with speed.
When you first enter Pepe Rosso you will be struck by its appearance: the space is very small, with four tables that can accomodate about 10 diners.
The decor hits you next. On the exposed brick wall behind the bench side of the tables hang a multitude of signs. Old photos, shelves of wine and painted skateboards take up even more space. The few spots left are filled with chalkboard menus listing the unexpectedly large selection. Along with the red paint accents and metal ceiling, Pepe Rosso looks like your average Roman eatery: small, basic, but with delicious food.
Be sure to snag a table before you order, because the food comes out quick.
As you approach the counter to order, the regular menu looms directly above. Although the focus of Pepe Rosso is its pasta, there are a variety of other dishes on the menu. These are categorized under panini, insalate, antipasti, paste, contorni, secondi and bibite. Besides the normal menu there are always about eight specials, which are written on the chalkboard to your right.
If you are 21 and up, order a glass of the house red wine ($7). You’ll get a stout glassful, which the cashier or owner will pour with a swing of his arm from a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo he keeps corked on the counter.
After ordering, ask for some bread and head to the shelf near the door to get olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip it in. The bread is nothing special, but it soaks up oil well. If you’re lucky, they may have thrown in a few fingers of focaccia topped with onions or garlic.
Nothing is more upsetting than receiving a cold plate of pasta, but at Pepe Rosso that will never happen. Here, the pasta is hot and al dente because of the quick transfer from the kitchen stove to the diner. Give the pasta a cooling blow, sprinkle on several spoonfuls of parmesan and you’re set.
In my six visits to Pepe Rosso, I have only tried three dishes, because some dishes are worth repeating. The super-wide pappardelle with short rib tomato sauce ($13) has stayed on the specials list for months, and it is easy to see why. The thickness of the noodles stands up to the chunks of soft beef and the meaty scent is carried upwards by the steam of the pasta.
I have ordered rigatoni prosciutto ($13) on three separate occasions. The rigatoni comes tossed in a pink tomato sauce with pan-fried, chewy bits of prosciutto. The pasta is then topped with a small pile of peppery arugula. The greens wilt slightly as your stir them into the heat of the pasta. When you have finished the pasta, take a piece of bread and mop up the remaining sauce.
Chicken, as well as salmon, is offered on the secondi menu. The lemon chicken with spinach ($13) could do with a fresh wedge of lemon on the side. The chicken is all right, but pales in comparison to the reason you’re here, which is the pasta.
As for dessert, there are usually two options available, one of which is tiramisu. I have had a lot of bad tiramisu in my life, but this was perhaps the best I’ve had.
The owner recognizes my party for our constant visits, which is a perk of local restaurants. He will often give us a slice of tiramisu for free.
With the warm pasta in your belly and perhaps a glass or two of wine, you will leave Pepe Rosso wanting to fall asleep. If it’s midday, there are plenty of excellent coffee shops nearby to help you out of the fog.
Pepe Rosso To Go is located at 149 Sullivan St. and is open to 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 10:30 p.m. Sunday.
Email Georgie Galinson at [email protected]