More than just bread
By Lauren Fouda
Whats in a name? For owners Bob Giraldi and Luigi Comandatore, BREADTribeca got the point across in a no-nonsense way, alerting diners that this was a Tribeca outpost of the original BREAD in SoHo.
However, BREADTribeca, is a misleading misnomer, as this Church Street locale pays equal respect to pasta, seafood, vegetables and, of course, to bread. Most often highlighting the cuisine of Comandatores native Liguria.
Theres practically an invisible spotlight on the menu item focaccia al formaggio, which was invented in the tiny town of Recco outside Genova. From the dining room, you can see the huge bread ovens open and close, as focaccia topped with creamy stracchino cheeseoh-so-authentic and oh-so-difficult to find in the United States bubbles and is hurriedly whisked away to tables. But while the bread is indeed sublime, theres no reason to avoid the other Ligurian specialties.
New arrivals include crusty, chewy bread, onion focaccia, and corn-oil fried chick peas with an appropriate touch of lemon zest, which shows up on several occasions: after all, lemon trees cluster on the Ligurian coast and even inspired Eugenio Montale, a Cinque Terre native and perhaps Italys most famous poet, to write his classic I Limoni.
Fritto misto arrives as simply as can be, on paper rather than a plate and garnished with only a few lemon wedges. The mixed fry is a seemingly random combination of exquisitely fresh fish and shrimp, mussels, smoky eggplant, zucchini, and fennel, all quickly batter-fried and rushed over by the attractive and attentive waitstaff. A squeeze of lemon (over the food, not the servers), and you wonder why anyone would try to alter the genius of a simple preparation.
Liguria being a coastal region, seafood sparkles across chef Iacopo Falias menu. A salad of plump, succulent shrimp, cherry tomatoes, roasted asparagus, and a lemony dressing is a standout, while shards of octopus punctuate a bowl of fingerling potato disks and green olives.
While the pasta section of the menu boasted Ligurian specialties such as Genovese pesto, trenette, and pansotti with walnut sauce, we opted for more seafood: smoky mussels in a tomato and garlic broth are steamed in a wood oven and topped with crostini for dipping, although diners with foresight will save some of the pre-meal bread basket to soak up more of the broth. Grilled squid captures just enough charred taste to complement peppery arugula and earthy, caramelized roasted beets.
While the bread is certainly a standout on the menu, it is not by any means the main reason to dine at BREADTribeca.
Would BREAD by any other name smell as sweet? Perhaps. The real draw at BREADTribeca is the marriage of Ligurian recipes with downtown sensibilities.