Cinelli's is hardly a typical slice-and-spaghetti house. A pizza counter on one side gives way to a high-ceiling dining space, walls a toasty chestnut, windows everywhere, French doors opening onto a patio.
Here, chef-owner Franco Abballe unleashes a passion for authentic Italian cuisine. Sure, he'll serve you chicken Parm, but you can also get a sandwich on a piadina, the grilled flatbread popular in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. And savor imported pastas, meats and cheeses rarely found at suburban Italian restaurants.
One afternoon, I get lost in a San Marco piadina filled with Speck (smoked prosciutto), caciotta al tartufo (truffle-infused sheep-and-cow's milk cheese), roasted peppers and spring greens. In addition to the usual Sicilian and Neapolitan, Cinelli's offers 12-inch individual artisan pizzas, crisp-crusted, flavorful: I like both the Monticiani (mozzarella, pancetta, charred cherry tomatoes and basil pesto) and Speck (Speck, fresh mozzarella and a vibrant "grandma" red sauce).
A salad special features fresh blackberries, Grana Padano and Oro Italiano (saffron-and-truffle-infused) cheese over arugula, to be dressed at
table with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Works for me.
So does the robust rapini e salsiccia (broccoli rabe and sausage) over strozzapreti (little "rolled towels") in a lovely garlic and oil brodetto. Another hit is pasta Ernica, long fusilli with escarole, cannellini beans, garlic and oil, topped with herbed toasted crumbs.
A dessert piadina spread with Nutella turns out just sweet enough, not cloying.
Big bonus: a $21 to $24 wine list from up-and-coming vineyards worldwide. So happy with my soft and fruity Nero D'Avola for $21.
Mushy, overcooked risotto al gamberetti with black tiger shrimp; an acidic and, sadly, boneless chicken scarpariello; veal Francese drowning in a lemony tomato-touched coral sauce, some pieces of meat tender, others chewy.
Eating here is always an adventure. For dinner, reserve ahead.