Restaurant of the Week: Cacio e Vino

Julie Besonen

Lately, my travels have taught me that there’s a culinary love affair going on between Italy and Japan. Authentic Italian restaurants are all the rage in Tokyo, and in Rome the mania for sushi keeps growing. The East Village has a bundle of both cuisines, but Sicilian food -- bona fide Sicilian food -- is scarce. The new, dark and inviting Cacio e Vino is filling the gap. Italians sit to the right of me, and Japanese to my left: a sign that we’ve come to the right place. The chef and menu are pure Island of the Sun. Grassy Sicilian olive oil and sea salt add a glossy, crunchy finish to a pretty plate of grilled eggplant, zucchini and carrots ($9). A salad of fava beans, Sicilian Pecorino and mint ($10) is another tasty, zingy way to get your vegetables. Sicilian pasta classics are embodied in such dishes as the easy-to-love rigatoni alla Norma ($15) with tomato sauce, eggplant and ricotta salata. Juicy, sweet-salty bucatini comes with sardines, wild fennel, raisins, pine nuts and bread crumbs ($14). Both go well with the delicious and earthy Nero d’Avola ($9 per glass). At the back is a brightly tiled, blazing beehive oven, turning out lightly charred pizzas, crackling thin flatbreads and luscious calzone ($7-$8). Cacio e Vino is short-staffed by a manly team of waiters, who dash from table to table and hug friends, and sometimes notice you waving, sometimes don’t. Both the Italians and Japanese appear familiar with Sicilian ways: In no particular hurry and fine to linger until the 2 a.m. closing time. 80 Second Ave., (212) 228-3269.

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