In a memoir, Lillian Hellman wrote, "Old paint on canvas, as it ages, sometimes becomes transparent. When that happens it is possible, in some pictures, to see the original lines ... That is called pentimento because the painter 'repented,' changed his mind."
Be glad that Dennis Young is a restless chef. Each season, he has refined and enhanced the cuisine at Pentimento, turning it into a many-layered affair, with reappearances, underlying surprises, new pleasures.
And the glow of this polished, graceful 17-year-old dining room has become a patina.
These days, Italian-style tapas beckon first, fine on their own and also to spur your appetite for a pasta and a main course. Warm piquillo peppers with goat cheese, tangy orange-and-fennel salad, marinated giant white beans and savory olives, mellow grilled polenta with porcini mushrooms, beef-veal-pork meatballs, sausage with a borlotti-bean ragu, fried chickpea fritters, pickled vegetables, peekytoe crab cake finished with a caper-chive spin on sauce rémoulade - all winners. Then, dive into a plate of buttery chestnut gnocchi flecked with speck, the rosy smoked ham. Sometimes, you'll find spinach-and-ricotta gnocchi in a pork-and-fennel sauce. Perhaps spaghetti with tender manila clams, olive oil, garlic and red-pepper flakes. Or goat cheese-and-chive ravioli accented with tomato-basil sauce and basil oil. Ravioli gnudi, here spinach-ricotta dumplings, also are primo. The grilled Duroc pork chop in Port sauce stands out, as do the pan-roasted Cooper Ridge filet mignon, chicken grilled "under a brick" and meaty, grilled striped bass. Spiced apple sorbet; citrus-glazed polenta cake; an affogato, or espresso and hazelnut liqueur atop gelato; and the well-chosen cheeses are ideal finales. Commendable wines and soft drinks, too.
Panko-crusted shrimp and fried eggplant rolls are on the dry side. Ultra al dente malloredus, a Sardinian riff on gnocchi, in pork ragu. Underseasoned Sicilian vegetable stew. Acidic fried artichoke hearts.
THE BOTTOM LINE