No More Tears: Cry Baby Pasta Reviewed
Cry Baby Pasta might seem like an unusual place. But in the kitchen, they’re doing everything right.
Cry Baby Pasta entered the game with multiple strikes against it. It’s another Italian restaurant in a city already too full of Italian restaurants. It was opened by two restaurant-industry couples (almost always a recipe for internal struggles) on the still-warm grave of another restaurant (Jason Cichonski’s Ela). Brought to life by Bridget Foy and Paul Rodriguez (who had Bridget Foy’s on South Street until it burned down a year and a half ago) and Carla Goncalves and David Gilberg (ex of Koo Zee Doo), it’s named (themed, lightly designed) after the cult Johnny Depp movie of the same name. That was a weird choice.
And yet, sit down for dinner, and all of the ghosts and business decisions melt away. Cry Baby is just plain joyful — replete with happy crowds, excellent cocktails, and Italian food done with a sharpness and forethought that make it feel unlike almost every other Italian restaurant in town. The theme is more distracting than anything else, but it isn’t overt or heavy-handed. The space is bright and comfortable — a kind of T-shape, with a full bar, blond wood, white brick and lots of color. Being there makes you feel good.
And in the kitchen, Goncalves, Gilberg and their crew are putting out a menu that’s richer and more focused than what you’d expect. There’s none of the muddiness or sloppiness of the neighborhood red-sauce joint, no lazy plating masquerading as faux rusticity. The parmesan broth is as clear as consommé, bobbing with tiny pork-and-cheese-stuffed tortellini. The bruschetta is charred in perfect hash marks from the grill, laid with whole sardines or buffalo mozzarella sweetened with basil honey.
The hand-rolled campanelle is like a disassembled scampi, shrimp laid nakedly on one side of the plate, pasta on the other, tossed with a garlic-heavy sauce redolent of the shrimp keeping it company. That’s just smart, a deconstruction that works.
But it’s the simplest thing — fried potatoes, dressed in a bright green basil pesto — that’s worth the most praise: perfectly cut (thicker than chips, thinner than you’d do for roasting), perfectly fried (crisp and golden outside, puffy and soft inside), dotted with amazing pesto, and dusted with parmesan that melts a little over the hot chips.
It’s such a stupid, basic thing, but it’s a dish that’s emblematic of everything that works here. A focus on sharp flavors, comforting and fun to eat.
Cry Baby made me happy. Because setting aside the space, the design, the theme, the history, and everything about the place that I thought would doom it, this — this care taken with the plainest things, the thought put into the more complex — is what matters more than anything else.
3 Stars — Come from anywhere in the region
0 stars: stay away
★: come if you have no other options
★★: come if you’re in the neighborhood
★★★: come from anywhere in the region
★★★★: come from anywhere in the country