Debbie and I first tried to eat at the bright new Caffe Falai about a month ago, showing up at around 7:15 on a Sunday night, only to be told that the kitchen was closed. It was their opening weekend, they said. They had been really busy, they were tired, they were shutting down early. I didn't realize at the time that the kitchen stops taking orders at 8:00 even when they're not tired, but still... I don't think I've ever heard of a New York City restaurant turning away people because the chefs wanted to go home.
Be that as it may, we tried again on a recent Sunday evening (it's in an excellent post-Angelika location, on Lafayette, just south of Prince), got in just under the wire, and totally enjoyed a tasty, relatively inexpensive meal. First came the bread, which was excellent and plentiful: two different kinds of rolls, plus several warm, freshly pressed thick slices. Next up was a delicious Ricotta Flan with roasted cherry tomatoes and arugula drizzled with balsamic vinegar. The ricotta was somehow both creamy and airy, and, no surprise, went well with the sweet tomatoes and bitter greens.
We both had a pasta for our main dish. Debbie's Papardelle with Cauliflower and Mushrooms in an almondy, buttery sauce was delicious: full-flavored, well-balanced, rich and creamy. The only downside was that the noodles weren't hot, or even warm... as if they had been cooked some time ago, and the kitchen figured that dousing the dish with a hot sauce would suffice. It did not. Meanwhile, I was tucking in to my Potato Tortelloni with Bolognese, and loving every bite. The sweet, meaty sauce made for a nice counterpoint to the soft spuds tucked inside the chewy pockets of pasta.
I've read that Caffe Falai is really more of a breakfast and lunch place, and that may be so... but I doubt the waitress hands you a goodie bag filled with two free loaves of bread during the day, as they did to us when we left at around 8:45 at night.