“Plates & Pints” is a new restaurant and bar review column here on Handlebar. Our team of gourmets and gourmands will make your mouth water by introducing you to all the fine establishments and delectable delicacies you need to try.
AFTER WATCHING THE eye-opening documentary Food Inc. last Monday, I decided to drastically lower my daily intake of meat. It was a big step for a young man from Texas, a state where steak is king and a man’s masculinity is questioned if he doesn’t order a double-patty Whataburger. For six days I delicately placed one sad slice of turkey in my brown bag sandwiches; I heaped lettuce and sprouts on top of thick Portobello mushroom burgers.
I’ve been a longtime fan of Prisinzano’s other restaurants, Supper, Lil’ Frankie’s, and Frank. And immediately upon entering, I could tell Sauce carried a similar aesthetic: 70s era wallpaper, tiled floors in the grocery (more on that later), antique photos of large Italian families in humble frames, and simple wooden chairs. Designed by Prisinzano and his friend Jorge Parriera, Sauce’s atmosphere is more sweater than suit, more hugs than handshakes.
My first dish, “Zucchini Tagliatelle and Bottarga,” was as delicious as it was beautiful. The brilliantly green zucchini shaves were lightly salted and expertly cooked, soft on the outside but still a bit crunchy.
But let’s face it: the real reason I came was for animal flesh. And as I was munching on a 4-meatball ragu appetizer (another solid delivery), I noticed what had escaped my eye upon entering: chandeliers of jarring metal spoons. And what’s that? Giant meat hooks hanging on the ceiling! This is Prisinzano’s ode to meat.
On Thursday mornings you will be able to see Sauce’s butchers hanging local grass-fed carcasses and slicing off choice cuts through the window (a sight soon to be loathed by the LES’s vegan diaspora). Those cuts are then displayed in a windowed cooler—it’s a small grocery, and patrons can select which cuts they’d like cooked or packaged to take home. Co-owner and former ad agency mogul Rob DeFlorio informed me that Sauce would soon be expanding the grocery cooler, giving customers the ability to take home the fettuccini and pastas Prisinzano uses in his dishes.
I decided to order the “Arrosto Misto”, a mix of roast beef, turkey, and porchetta. The hardy, straightforward assortment was slathered in a smoky, peppery “sugo d’Arrosto” sauce. The roasted tomato was the dish’s twist, complimenting the salty meats with its candy sweetness. The plates are small, so plan on ordering an appetizer and/or side.
With Sauce soon to offer window service and it’s late closing hours of 4:00am, the restaurant is sure to be a boon for the LES’s staggering night owls. Asked if it was competing with the hugely popular Meatball Shop one block away, DeFlorio demurred, “We’re totally different concepts. [Meatballshop Co-owner] Michael Chernow has already been here twice since we opened. He used to work with Frank.”
The bar offers a wide view of the kitchen, and as I stood to leave I could see that at the center of it all was Frank Prisinzano himself, finalizing plates and stirring a giant pot of “Sugo d’Arrosto” sauce. The man loves what he does, making it damn hard to ever go back to veggie burgers.
Allen Tullos is a New York-based filmmaker. Follow him on Twitter at @allentul.
Photographs by Allen Tullos.