'Inoteca | 98 Rivington St. (at Ludlow St.) | 212.614.0473 | www.inotecanyc.com | |

I WAS RECENTLY prescribed three medications (for being awesome!), whose few side effects include loss of appetite. I now eat one—and not three—meals a day, so I therefore chose to make it a special one.

I decided I was going to go local today and have Turkish food for lunch, covering a place three blocks away called Beyoglu. But when I got there I found it a bit too crowded for comfort (being anxious in crowds being another new issue), even for the late lunch time of 2:30 in the afternoon. I was already out of my apartment and figured a quick trip down to the Lower East Side to check out a new place called Bun & Co. (occupying the space that formerly housed the excellent Kampuchea), but I found the week old restaurant closed this particular day, due to "gas issues" according to the paper sign taped to the front door window.

But the Lower East Side was enjoyed a prolific boon in new restaurants, so I figured I could just walk around the neighborhood and eventually find a decent place that I could enjoy, and even though I didn't come across any of the newer places (that I hadn't yet covered for PHUDE), I found myself on the corner of Rivington and Ludlow, in front of 'Inoteca, and decided that this would be a good choice, especially since I have been irresponsible in posting about Italian restaurants, save the many artisanal pizza places that are popping up like champagne bubbles. It was now 3 o'clock, and walking in I was impressed with the size and decor of the space, as well with the fact that they were still doing brisk business on a slightly rainy afternoon. (I was fortunate enough be able to sit at a four-top table, away from the other, more crowded tables.)

I asked the friendly and accommodating host/manager about the "house" signature plates; he first recommended the truffle egg toast appetizer off the pane-bruschetta menu section. The dish consists of two egg yolks baked on bread, and topped with fontina cheese and truffle oil. The offer the option of adding grated bottarga on top, and me being a new fan of it, decided it was worth the extra three bucks. It comes served over asparagus.

If I could find bottarga on the Upper East Side, I would make this excellent, earthy and aromatic dish at least once a week. Expect me to, however, still prepare my own variations in the near future.

Next I ordered the polpi, or octopus (of which I have always been a huge fan), that was grilled and served over chickpeas with basil, basil oil, and a sweet red wine reduction.

A tender tentacle whose fresh, oceanic flavor, heightened by hints of "char", went quite nicely with the nutty but smooth chickpeas, the sweet, subtle fruit of the wine reduction, and the bright, herbal earthiness of basil.

I could overhear a few diners speculate over which magazine I was a food critic for, possibly because I was taking pictures, but more probably because I was finishing any of the plates, though thoroughly enjoying the food. They may have thought more so when I ordered a third course of the budino di cioccolato, which my limited latin study helped by translate into "chocolate pudding", topped with pistachios.

An refreshingly, "old school" consistency—more custard-y than Jello-like—with a deep, rich flavor that was more chocolate than sugar (a rarity), served nicely by the pistachios and fresh whipped cream.

At meal's end, I could feel myself getting anxious to get home, but I was grateful that I patiently persevered after my first two attempts to eat today. And although I spent three times more than what I usually pay for lunch (though, it equals out), having treated myself to a very nice meal at 'Inoteca proved that the third time (I tried to eat today) was, indeed, the charm.

Bun Apple Tea!


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'Inoteca | 98 Rivington St. (at Ludlow St.) | 212.614.0473 | www.inotecanyc.com | |