By Grace Timmerman | Photographed By Sunny Frantz
“Still or sparkling?”
This is the first question your waiter will ask you at Bar Corallini and the first of several things that might come as a pleasant surprise during a meal at the East Side’s newest southern Italian restaurant.
It might surprise you to discover that the mozzarella is made fresh every day in-house, or that a wall on the way to the restroom is completely covered in shells, or that some of the seriously trendy Italian wines are very reasonably priced. Between the splashy tile, coral light fixtures, retro leather seating, a soaring ceiling and roman arches, the space at this newest Food Fight Group restaurant is at once elegant and inviting.
The arches beckon newcomers to get a look at the open kitchen, where Chef Giovanni Novella’s team is busting out house-made pasta with tangy, herbal tomato sauce and tossing wood-fired pizzas that crisp nicely in a shimmering Mugnaini oven, imported from Italy herself.
“Still or sparkling?” is the first thing Novella asks me as well, when we sit down for a chat about his coral-themed project. Novella’s hospitality is infectious, and it quickly becomes clear that the fusion of vintage décor and modern trends mirrors the chef’s fusion of old techniques he learned throughout restaurants in Europe and his enthusiasm for learning new things.
Novella makes every menu item possible from scratch. Ingredients that don’t have an American equivalent are imported from Novella’s homeland, which lends greatly to the authenticity of his flavors. A self-proclaimed family man, Novella says he loves when kids come into the restaurant.
“When it’s not too busy, sometimes we show them how to make a pizza!” he exclaims with a grin.
Novella grew up in Torre del Greco outside of Naples, on Italy’s southern coast. His grandfather was a fisherman, so he grew up fishing and still loves cooking with the fruits of the sea. The octopus salad, or polpo con patate, is a toothsome, citrusy story of the chef’s childhood; the white meat’s clean flavor is livened by a briny vinaigrette, fresh parsley, celery and capers. Follow the octopus and a spritz with the bold and flavorful Tagliatelle alla Bolognese and a glass of Nero D’Avola.
No matter what, you must end your meal with an orange-infused cannoli and a cappuccino (you might be surprised to find a sea coral silhouette in the foam). The sweet, grassy ricotta, toasty shell and slightly bitter coffee is a dreamy combination that is sure to make you sit deep into that retro leather and sigh with contentment.
2004 Atwood Avenue, barcorallini.com