Food porn comes to mind when dishes are delivered to the table at Locanda Verde. You stop and stare for a beat. Everything is so beautiful, so glistening and colorful, you have a feeling it will be as good as it looks. Mint-strewn, fried artichokes ($14) are arrayed on a long plate atop a dollop of yogurt, perfectly spaced apart like jewels displayed at Tiffany's. A summery salad of heirloom tomatoes, juicy cubes of watermelon and a confetti of feta ($13) combines sweetness, crunch, tanginess and salt. Both dishes were enhanced by a generous pour of crisp, tropical rosé ($10/glass) from Castello Di Ama. Even the bowl of olive oil accompanying the bread is like an abstract painting, the golden oil artfully dotted with balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes and a sprig of thyme. I've always loved Andrew Carmellini's food, both at Café Boulud and A Voce, but at Locanda Verde he's cooking in a handsomer, warmer and more animated space. The tavern-like tables are jammed with a smart crowd, overseen by a smiling, easygoing staff. It's essentially Italian, which must be nice for one of the owners, Robert DeNiro. Ken Friedman of The Spotted Pig and Josh Pickard of Joe's Pub are two of the co-stars behind it, as well as Karen DeMasco, formerly of Craft, whipping up amazing gelato and sorbet. Though not very Italian, the lamb meatball sliders with cucumber ($12) are fantastic. I've never seen blue crab and jalapeno crostino ($10) in Italy either, but more's the pity for them. And if even you have the lamb sliders, don't let that stop you from ordering the incredibly good spaghetti with chili-laced lamb Amatriciana ($16), every strand lusciously coated in sauce. If only I'd had a camera.
377 Greenwich St., 212-925-3797