Paparazzi West needs seasoning
The Hillsdale eatery has a menu that often falls flat
About a year ago, Irvington's Paparazzi Pastaficio expanded into a second restaurant with the same name across the river in Hillsdale. Informally called Paparazzi West, it hasn't, as they say, come a long way, baby.
Where the Northeast Broadway location is a small, funky space with a sunken bar area and a teensy bathroom you have to walk though the kitchen to access, the newer Hillsdale restaurant has a lot less character.
The vast, barn-like structure is attractive inside and out, especially inviting when the weather warrants opening the large deck, but it also strikes a sterile note:
The piped-in bantamweight jazz Ñ the sonic equivalent of skim milk Ñ doesn't help on this score. And given its size, diners on busy nights might feel like graduating students at a huge university Ñ that is, numbers instead of individuals.
What's worse, the food here doesn't measure up to the standards set by its older, wiser sibling. The menus are similar, and the identical dishes, such as the generous risotto di mare and antipasto of crostini with goat cheese and olives, are fairly consistent at both restaurants. But when Paparazzi West asserts its own identity, the results often are disappointing.
While the original Pastaficio is heavy on pasta, Paparazzi West offers an equal number of secondi (entrees) and pasta dishes. Surprisingly, there are few fish options, except for salmon, and the meat choices can be leaden.
Take the saltimbocca, a traditional Italian recipe for veal wrapped in prosciutto and sautŽed in butter. Translated, 'saltimbocca' means 'jump mouth,' so named for the dish's trademark razzle-dazzle. Paparazzi's version, overly cheesy and saturated with fat, does anything but ignite excitement in the mouth.
Even the pastas seem to suffer here. Ravioli al funghi imparts good porcini mushroom flavor, but the ravioli shells are limp and the sauce soupy. Pasta with a simple pomodoro (tomato) sauce, likewise, is watery.
When it comes to shellfish, Paparazzi gives you so much of it, you can't help but smile. Two companion dishes Ñ the risotto di mare and linguine di mare Ñ brim with about a dozen prawns and scallops each, with a few chunks of fresh crab mixed in as well. These are tasty, satisfying meals.
Other high points include a sweet antipasto that presents Gorgonzola, walnuts and a dab of honey on endive, and a very palatable $4 moscato.
However, the list for wines by the glass is woefully short, and, on one occasion, one of two featured aperitifs was unavailable because the restaurant had run out of Punt e Mes, an Italian red vermouth. You run out of Punt e Mes? On a Friday night?
Unfortunately, dinner does not end with a bang, either. The dessert menu includes crme caramel and individual chocolate soufflŽs, a curious mix for an Italian restaurant. Because of its lukewarm exterior, the soufflŽ did not appear to be made to order, as the best ones are. And a chocolate cannoli we sampled was terribly bland; its shell tasted exactly like oyster crackers.
With a little concentrated effort, Paparazzi West could rival the quality dining experience found at the original Pastaficio. Currently, it runs the risk of becoming the black sheep of the family.