New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Fossetta provides a moment to sneak away for carb-loaded solace

Fossetta in the Lower East Side is the perfect hideaway to enjoy focaccia and wine by candlelight, read alone at the bar or catch up with out-of-towners.
Roasted half chicken (Bella Simonte for WSN)

At first glance, Fossetta looks like a mechanics garage with slightly better lighting and sanitation. The black rimmed floor-to-ceiling windows make it seem like the outside world is blending into the restaurant whenever someone opens the front door. There is no obvious host stand, instead, guests are greeted upon arrival by a server scurrying from the bar. When I dined, there were only two servers for the entire restaurant, one of whom I came to find was a manager. The hospitality was welcoming and down-to-earth, but it was obvious the workers were there to provide a service and not engage in friendly chit chat.

The bar takes focus upon arrival, backlit by a wall filled with obscure wines, brews and aperitifs. Given I went on a Tuesday night, the crowd and white noise of overlapping small talk was light. However, instead of feeling desolate, it was more intimate and secluded, almost as though every party in the restaurant was in their own private world. Everything on the menu is unique in its own way, but the dedicated focaccia menu — especially the ricotta and hot honey — made a lasting impression. The focaccia was unlike any other: airier with a harder crust and a cavernous inside that I wanted to get lost exploring in.

The only way to start off any meal is with a dedicated focaccia course. I tested three out of the four selections on the menu: olive oil and sea salt, ricotta and hot honey, and garlic cream and fontina.

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The olive oil and sea salt variation was a clear stand out. To say I devoured this dish is an understatement; I looked up from my first bite and had a layer of olive oil over my lip gloss. This was the airiest, most delicate focaccia I’ve ever tasted, and I sincerely thought about buying some to use as a pillow.

It can be hard to find a bread that balances the overpowering flavor of ricotta, but this ricotta and hot honey focaccia ended my search. The hot honey was more understated than I would like, but the sheer volume of the focaccia was enough to outweigh the consistency of the ricotta to make for a perfect, well-rounded bite. And though all three breads were mouthwatering, the balancing act performed by the ricotta was my favorite.

The last focaccia I tried was the garlic cream and fontina focaccia, and though I’m usually a sucker for fontina, this version was a little underwhelming. It was by far the driest of the three focaccias and the flavor was too concentrated on the crust of the bread. I love the fontina and garlic cream combination, but I would prefer to see the flavor a little more nuanced and distributed.

Moving into the antipasti, I was excited to try the marinated octopus. One of my two rules for dining is that if there’s octopus on the menu, I have to get it. Because octopus has a more subtle flavor profile, it needs a lot of assistance from oils, seasonings and vegetables to truly stand out. The marinade definitely gave the seafood the support it needed, but was a little too pickled and bitter in my opinion. I also didn’t love the whole cloves of garlic — they were unnecessary and a little distracting.

Octopus pieces in a bowl with green spices and a red pepper.
Marinated octopus (Bella Simonte for WSN)

The roasted pumpkin with herb butter was the most surprising dish from the evening. It’s unusual to see a squash dish so popular in its off-season, as they’re usually harvested in September and October. However, it’s a crowd favorite for a reason; the herb butter created a thin shell of flavor and the pumpkin was delicate without being soft or soggy. My one gripe was with the pomegranate seed garnishes as they clashed with the overall taste and texture of the dish.

Roasted pumpkin with oil and seasoning.
Roasted pumpkin (Bella Simonte for WSN)

The Caesar salad
was equally as impressive. As someone who’s seen a lot of Caesar in her day, this takes rank in the top five. The dressing was a little heavy on the anchovy, but that’s personally what I like. It felt like every leaf was plucked with intention and there was a mountain of parmesan I wanted to lay down and make snow angels in. They also won me over by using breadcrumbs instead of whole croutons which distributed the texture and taste of the crunch better.

A caesar salad with white cheese and chunks of lettuce.
Caesar salad (Bella Simonte for WSN)

Unfortunately, the service of delicious food hit a road bump with the trompete and chicories. This highly anticipated dish ended up as the least exciting dish of the evening, falling short of my expectations. There was too much going on with the garnishes – pine nuts, breadcrumbs and chicories — that seemed to all clash with each other. The bitterness of the chicories also monopolized the dish more than I would’ve liked.

A bowl of noodles with some green and red vegetables and lentils on top.
Trompete and chicories (Bella Simonte for WSN)

The rigatoni and chicken livers made for a far more impressive entree. While I was hesitant to feast on the intestines of a chicken, I was blown away by the flavor the dish packed. The marsala cream paired with the guanciale skin — pork cheek — was a subtle undertone to the star of the dish: the liver. The consistency of the liver was on the drier side, but the flavor compensated for that.

Rigatoni pasta with ground-up chicken and green vegetables on it.
Rigatoni and chicken liver (Bella Simonte for WSN)

Zeppoles, a mini Italian fried donut similar to beignets, provided a sweet ending to the meal. It can be hard to find restaurants that actually make them, and downright impossible to find a restaurant that makes them well. I wouldn’t come here specifically for the zeppoles, but they were encouragingly above average. The chocolate ganache is needed to add taste to the otherwise savory dough, but put it all together and you have a sugary, airy ball of delight. I maxed out at one donut hole due to its density, but it was exactly what I needed to end the meal with.

Fried zeppoles with powdered sugar on top next to a bowl of chocolate.
Zeppoles (Bella Simonte for WSN)

Though not every dish was a home run, I would definitely recommend a visit to Fossetta — I know I would certainly return there myself if I had the chance. I wouldn’t come all the way from the Upper West Side, but the focaccia and Caesar deserve the trek at least from the Flatiron District or West Village. And as far as creativity goes, Fossetta is one of the best executed attempts at modern Italian cuisine.

Contact Bella Simonte at [email protected].

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