Dining: A Friday Night Jaunt to Santina

While I take great pride and integrity in sourcing and concocting my own food (supporting local farmer’s markets is as gratifying an act as any), I am also equally aware of how much I enjoy dining out when my schedule and budget allows for it. Despite the ample temptations I face on an everyday basis here in Hoboken (great Italian EVERYWHERE), nothing beats a dinner out in New York City. It’s high time I started incorporating some new elements to this blog and I figured a ‘Dining’ option would be a welcome addition to Visions of Vitality, starting with my experience at Santina.

Santina is a relatively new culinary establishment in Manhattan and spawned from the genius minds of Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi, and Jeff Zalaznick. Their restaurant group, Major Food Group, boasts some of New York’s finest and most notable restaurants including Carbone, Dirty French, and Parm. Santina is nestled in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, a mere stone’s throw away from the Whitney Museum of Art, the High Line, and the Standard Hotel. Santina’s fare is a mix of coastal Italian and Mediterranean influences and inside Santina’s doors, the ambiance exudes both tropical vibes and island flair. The space itself is bright and colorful; inviting and jovial; and hip but refined. Two things can be sure: there isn’t a place like it in New York and it doesn’t feel like New York. Simply put, you feel like you are on an island in the Caribbean.

The menu itself is separated into six sections: cecina (chickpea flour pancakes) with your choice of filling, vegetables and fish, tomato, salad, rice (short grain rice dishes) and pasta, and main. There is also a sides section, of which consists of spicy potatoes, garlic broccoli, and grilled mushrooms.

The star of the show: Zucchini Carpaccio

We opted for the Zucchini (or Butternut Squash) Carpaccio, which is one of the best vegetarian dishes I have ever tasted. Thinly shaved butternut squash adorns Santina’s charming and colorful plates, along with pepitas, herbs, and other delicious flavors that meld it all together. We ordered the Insalata Pompeii next, preceding the Rigatoni Norma and Guanciale (Italian cured meat) e Pepe rice dish. My favorite of the three was the Rigatoni, cooked al dente and ripe with flavor and cheese. The dressing atop the Insalata Pompeii was its strongest element and the Guanciale e Pepe served as a nice change-up from the classic Cacio e Pepe.

We capped our evening by splitting the Hazelnut Orange Cake. A balanced ratio of orange to hazelnut flavor and the additional accompaniments made it a worthy closer.

Overall, our wait staff was attentive, knowledgeable, and prompt. While the lack of menu descriptions was a little frustrating at first, it only added to the intrigue and mystique of Santina. In my mind, it forces the wait staff to have a high degree of menu acumen, of which ours did. We didn’t order any mains, which I will likely do next time, but the general ambiance and unique flavors found within the dishes at Santina are second to none. Meat takes a backseat to vegetables and fish at Santina, which is refreshing in itself.

Food – 4

Service – 4

Ambiance – 5

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