Walk off the corner of Prince and Thompson straight into an Italian village. That’s the feeling you get upon entering Coco Pazzo, Chef Pino Luongo’s new casual spot in Soho, NYC.
WHO TO TAKE: A BIG GROUP FOR A CELEBRATION ITALIAN STYLE OR SOMEONE WHO ENJOYS RUSTIC TUSCAN FARE WITH A VEGGIE FOCUS
New York is famous for its Italian restaurants, which come in all shapes and sizes. Coco Pazzo, which translates to “crazy chef,” has a certain something about it. (If the name sounds familiar, you may be thinking of the chef’s original rendition of Coco Pazzo on NYC’s upper east side, which was open from 1990 to 2008.) The menu greets you with familiar Italian staples, but then offers up some unusual combinations. Rustic Tuscan is their theme, and the salads alone are reason to come here.
We went as a group of five to celebrate a big event, and the close quarters lent to the festivity. The room is small, but decorated in such a way that it feels calm and restful. Worn taupe-shaded woods, a series of mirrors with rounded edges, a comfortable banquette and chairs, and unadorned windows give it a feeling of an established place with history. This space was originally Milady’s, a Soho staple, a friendly, beloved, dive bar that lasted 60+ years. So perhaps that energy has been infused into the space.
The night we went, there was a table of about 12 people, and much to our surprise, their food was served on a long plank, which had to be steered through the space with much fanfare. It made for a fun distraction, and kept the energy high and fun.
My veggie-loving fellow diners really got into the salads. I tried the one with raw baby artichokes mixed with Parmigiano, fennel, olive oil, lemon. So fresh. Also on the table, extra crispy Brussels sprouts served with fennel, arugula, and a heaping of feta. For legume lovers, the CocoSette, come with seven stellar ingredients: farro, lentils, chick peas, mushrooms, zucchini, cauliflower, cannellini beans—practically a meal in itself. The Burrata completed the appetizer round, and came surrounded by fresh tomatoes.
For the entrees, Coco Pazzo stepped out of tradition and offered pairings of a pasta and main dish, served on rectangular plates. There was a play on clams with a clam ragu linguini and a side of stuffed clams. A rigatoni in tomato sauce was paired with chicken and ricotta meatballs. I ended up spllitting the two specials of the day, one was the roasted whole branzino, served with spinach in olive oil and lemon, which was ample and succulent, and filleted, so no muss! The other special featured scallops with a side of orrechietti.
This is a fun spot to visit with a group or just one other person. The lovely round bar at the rear offers up nice wine or prosecco by the glass, so you can pop in for a bit of a taste of Italy.
Coco Pazzo, 160 Prince St (SE corner of Thompson St)