The Australian - Wish Magazine - - FOOD -

hen you bite into it, you are go­ing to start cry­ing and think you need to call me and thank me, but don’t, be­cause you don’t want to in­ter­rupt the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

It is not of­ten that you get a food rec­om­men­da­tion that pre­dicts you end­ing in tears, but such is the pas­sion elicited by Via Carota. The Ital­ian restau­rant in New York’s West Vil­lage was not only the top sug­ges­tion made to WISH be­fore a re­cent trip to the Big Ap­ple but was echoed by ev­ery per­son con­sulted, here and there, from Aus­tralian chefs to food­ies to Broad­way pro­duc­ers. It seems the neigh­bour­hood restau­rant on Grove Street makes a last­ing im­pres­sion.

Opened by much-loved “down­town” chefs Jody Wil­liams and Rita Sodi in 2014, Via Carota was the first restau­rant for the pair (who are also part­ners out­side the kitchen). Wil­liams al­ready had her ca­sual French bistro Bu­vette down the road and Sodi had her Ital­ian es­tab­lish­ment I Sodi. “Via Carota is a homage to Rita’s home,” Wil­liams tells WISH: Sodi grew up in a villa on Via Carota in a small vil­lage in Tus­cany. “We wanted to cre­ate a place where we could cook to­gether the foods that we love, iconic Tus­can dishes. We used ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments and fur­nish­ings from Rita’s orig­i­nal villa on Via Carota. The de­sign and menu re­flects what we love most of all about the Tus­can life­style and cui­sine.”

The re­sult is sim­ple, clas­sic Ital­ian food in­flu­enced by sea­sons and “heavy on the veg­eta­bles”, ac­cord­ing to Sodi. The space is re­laxed and rus­tic, with wooden floors, bare brick walls, a long mar­ble bar and wait­ers in crisp white shirts and aprons. It is packed with lo­cals and vis­i­tors and there is of­ten a queue out the front (it does not take book­ings, so get there early or late for din­ner if you want to be able to walk in straight away).

The food does come close to bring­ing WISH to tears, from the fried green olives to the spe­cial­ity dish Via Svizze­rina (a grass-fed steak chopped up and made into a burger that melts in your mouth) to the choco­late or­ange can­noli. The sim­ple green salad dressed with a sherry vinai­grette is even worth not­ing.

“Each sea­son brings a favourite dish,” says Wil­liams when asked about their most mem­o­rable cre­ations. “Right now it is fried squash blos­soms, fritto misto with soft-shell crabs and pump­kin ravi­oli. And of course there is truf­fle sea­son.” Both Sodi and Wil­liams are self­taught. Sodi in par­tic­u­lar was a late­comer to the pro­fes­sion: she stud­ied art in Florence and worked in the fash­ion in­dus­try for 30 years be­fore open­ing her own Ital­ian restau­rant in New York, out of dis­ap­point­ment at what was on of­fer. Wil­liams stud­ied Ital­ian cui­sine for five years in Italy af­ter she grad­u­ated from univer­sity and then came back to work in food in New York. They met in 2008 when Wil­liams went for din­ner at I Sodi.

As for bal­anc­ing their pro­fes­sional and per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, Sodi and Wil­liams ad­mit there is no di­vi­sion. “We don’t re­ally have an out­side life, just a restau­rant life,” Sodi says. “Be­ing pas­sion­ate about food and wine, we travel for in­spi­ra­tion and rest. We have a lot of prac­tice sup­port­ing each other with our neigh­bour­ing places Bu­vette and I Sodi.” It ob­vi­ously works as the pair are pre­par­ing to open a sec­ond restau­rant to­gether, Pisellino (sweet pea) up the road. It will be an all-day ca­sual Ital­ian café where peo­ple can drop in for cof­fee, sweet pas­tries, break­fast and lunch right up to cock­tails at night.

As for their New York food rec­om­men­da­tions, they both start with the mar­kets. “Al­ways Union Square Green Mar­ket as well as walk­ing tours and side­walk cafes,” says Wil­liams. “We don’t get out as much as we would like but there are so many in­spir­ing places to eat.”


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