At first glance Gnocco appears to be a classic pizzeria in the heart of alphabet city. There’s a dark wooden counter and two guys who could easily be named Sal with white aprons and hints of flour from flipping dough throughout the day. However, if you dare to venture further back, you’ll discover a cozy dining room with a bar and a delightful enclosed garden that reminds you how different the two sides of the same coin can look.
Gnocco is a hidden treasure off the beaten path of New York City’s East Village. Gnocco, an artisanal Italian restaurant, celebrates 20 years in business this July. Gian Luca Giovanetti, owner/ executive chef, developed a truly authentic menu based on the experiences he had with food and his community growing up in Italy. It’s easy to see how Gnocco has managed to stand out amongst the countless number of Italian restaurants throughout New York City.
Giovanetti makes a point to honor tradition while embracing the times. All the pastas and breads are handmade daily. The same goes for the sauces. When it comes to the food, the menu features a seasonal rotating selection of Emilia-Romagna classics but maintains a static collection of menu staples that return customers bring their friends to experience over and over again. When it comes to the physical menu, Gnocco has taken a polar opposite approach to its back of the house practices. They use an all-digital menu that features descriptions, pictures, and suggested wines for each dish. The specials are uploaded daily allowing for easier communication between diners who may not be familiar with the culinary terms but are attracted to the image of the dish.
On the starter menu, Gnocco, their namesake appetizer, is a traditional Emilian deep fried puffed dough found exclusively at this restaurant. On the entree staples menu, the Maialino Al Latte, a dish near and dear to the chef, is a pork dish that stems from family dinners in Modena. The tender pork is served with creamy mashed potatoes and spinach.
On the seasonal menu, you’ll find Lasagna Emiliana with layers of spinach fresh pasta with beef, veal and pork ragu and a silky béchamel sauce, among other selections of mouth-watering pastas like the butternut squash ravioli. This slow roasted squash is roasted down to remove the water and enhance the sweetness. It’s mixed with a blend of spices and even an amaretto cookie to give it a unique and enjoyable flavor.
Gnocco also makes a point to separate menu items that are vegan and vegetarian friendly. Since everything is made in house, it’s easy to find out what’s in every dish making this a good option for diners with various lifestyles. Also worth noting, Gnocco’s 12-inch individual thin crust brick oven pizza is in the ranks as one of the best in the city with dough that is leavened for at least 48 hours, making it lighter and easily digestible. Their most popular selection is the mouthwatering Tartufata made with fresh mozzarella, truffle sauce, mushrooms and speck.
Finally, no italian dinner would be complete without wine. Gnocco’s wine menu is filled with 100% Italian wines. They offer 55 of the 60 bottles as glasses and suggest the perfect pairing with every dish. This special feature was developed under the guidance of wine expert/partner Pierluigi Palazzo. So if Italy’s not in your budget or you can’t fit it in your schedule, Gnocco seems like the next best thing. The service, food, decor, passion and love that goes into the dining experience makes it clear how Gnooco has managed to last 20 years in New York City.
By Brandy Cochrane, Plant Candy