Debbie and I hooked up with the lovely Tom and Kate on Saturday night for a dinner-and-a-movie double date. Tom picked the movie, Reign Over Me, which was good; I suggested the restaurant, Dieci, which was not.
Okay, maybe "frustrating" would be a more accurate description of this small, design-y cute (the architect also did nearby Chickalicious) subterranean spot on 10th Street, just east of 1st Avenue, which has the potentially great but totally underutilized gimmick of classic Italian dishes as re-imagined by the Japanese chef and owners. Instead, what we get is not-bad food, with no real asian infusions, all served in the small plates format, which makes little sense with these type of dishes. Really? Four or five bites of nothing-special Lamb Bolognese for $13? In this neighborhood? The four of us ordered eight plates, plus dessert, spent about $120 with tip (and no booze), and walked away hungry.
Anyway... the food. In the poor to satisfactory category: Octopus and Potato Salad was small, rubbery, (nice and) lemony, and ruinously refrigerated; Apple and Greens salad was fine; Prosciutto was translucent but bland (you could do a lot better at Fairway—especially for ten bucks!); the Trippa with Red Cabbage was mushy and too vinegary.
Much better was the crunchy, creamy Grilled Potato; the Bershire Belly on a bed of lentils (though this, too, suffered from mushiness); and, best of all, the Squid-Ink Risotto, which was rich and oceanic and deserved far more play than this teeny serving. Dessert was also a highlight, especially the Bitter Chocolate Cake with the made-on-premises Banana Gelato.
Dieci can be saved, but they better hurry. I can't imagine it lasting long if they continue with this sort of food at these prices... and you can't live off of Momofuku spillover forever.