In its newest life, Grasso's drops the "trattoria" title, trims to a possessive, and delivers an order of new American fare. More important is what stays: very good food.

Restless Gail Grasso has overseen several transitions at this address. At each stage, whether fine-tuning or overhauling, she's kept her name on a comfortable and consistent restaurant.

The new Grasso's expands on the jazz theme. There's live music Wednesday to Sunday, with a trio four nights and a pianist on Sunday. The music room near the bright granite-top bar is overseen by a whimsical photo of Miles Davis, requesting silence. Every day, you can enjoy chef Tony Canales' cuisine, which keeps a few trattoria favorites while expanding the repertoire. His dishes are served in a soft-hued dining area, with sponged walls, mirrors and artwork occasionally playing on the jazz theme. When the weather allows, Grasso's goes alfresco.

You could begin with a delicate, creamy roasted garlic-and-goat-cheese flan, which delivers a hint of thyme, a drizzle of red wine and a Parmesan crisp for company. Grilled eggplant, however, is underdone.

Baked oysters show up sweet and tasty, under a cheese mantle that threatens to overwhelm them. The oysters are better than the grilled shrimp, atop a savory hillock of napa cabbage, but jarred by a metallic, overly sweet ginger-soy glaze.

The meal gets going again with well-seasoned crab cake; mussels finished with coconut milk, lemongrass and red curry; and pan-seared diver sea scallops with saffron sauce.

Salads are worth sampling, either as appetizers or as a middle course. The roasted beet number, red and golden, brings in smoked bacon and grilled red onions amid the greens. The crunchy, grilled pear salad enlivens the mesclun with goat cheese and walnuts.

Before you think Grasso's has bid buona notte to the Italian side, sample the arugula salad with shavings of Parmesan cheese. Then revel in a savory risotto of butternut squash, roasted apples and sprouts, with radicchio for balance. Grasso's has kept favorites from its previous perspective, including the memorable tagliatelle alla Bolognese. The mandatory pasta of the moment, however, is potato gnocchi in brown butter, spiked with sage, and gilded with ricotta salata and prosciutto.

Wild mushroom risotto supports juicy roast duckling. But tuna au poivre is limp, despite the peppercorns. An alternative: pan-roasted monkfish with capers and tomato confit. Have your rack of lamb medium-rare.

Desserts combine old and new, as creamy American cheesecake vies with a mellow .tiramisu; and a calzone-size banana crepe suggests agnolotti gone wild. A triple-chocolate production with grand ganache and the professional creme brulee restore order.

Grasso's. It's short for recommended.

Reviewed by Peter M. Gianotti, 1/28/07.


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