Monday, January 14, 2013

The Library at the Public (New York)

Walking into The Library feels like being let in on a secret. The restaurant, which opened last year, is tucked away in the rear left corner of the mezzanine level of the recently renovated Public Theater in Noho. While there is a sign for The Public’s ground-floor restaurant, Joe’s Pub, there is none for The Library—you have to know it’s there.

It’s not a bad secret to be in on, for The Library, part of Chef Andrew Carmellini’s restaurant empire, is already serving great food and enjoying good buzz.

The restaurant’s interior is really quite charming: a warm space walled in by wood paneling and bookshelves designed by The Rockwell Group. Besides just books, the shelves contain a marvelous collection of dioramas (see bottom right of photo above) and other curiosities. Behind our table was a large hourglass, its grains of sand slowly streaming down as someone must have reset it before dinner.

Chef Michael Oliver, formerly of Carmellini’s acclaimed Italian tavern Locanda Verde, is serving pub-themed food with Italian touches. Thus, pulled pork roll and short rib goulash share menu space with orecchiette served with roasted cauliflower and pecorino. The rigatoni with broccoli rabe, sausage and chickpeas was delicious, as was the Joe’s Burger, served with caramelized onions, bacon and cheddar cheese.

Starters are divided into snacks (Act I) and more substantial appetizers (Act II). We enjoyed the roasted beets with grapefruit, goat cheese and pistachio nuts, as well as the pickle plate, an assortment that included cucumbers, cauliflower, carrots and beans that went well with our cocktails.

The bar, unfortunately, was the only place where we encountered problems with The Public. That's a shame, since this is the kind of place where the bar should really be performing optimally to handle those post-theater crowds that must wander in for drinks. The drinks themselves were very good, both the Johnny the Fox with cognac, madeira and walnut liqueur, and the Jersey Lightining Sling, an Applejack-based drink with homemade orgeat.

Our issue was that the bar was very slow, taking too long to get us our drinks, even though the restaurant wasn’t very busy. We overheard the neighbors at the next table making a similar complaint. Additionally, our red wine was served too warm. This may sound like a minor quibble, but hey, this is New York City, where one expects these things to be done right, particularly in a restaurant linked to Mr. Carmellini.

Still, this wouldn’t stop me from visiting The Library again. Seems like the perfect place to take friends for dinner or maybe even drinks after dinner someplace nearby in the East Village.

The Library at the Public, 425 Lafayette Street (At Astor Place, inside the Public Theater, mezzanine level), New York, NY (Noho). 212-539-8790. Reservations: Open Table.

The Library at the Public Theater on Urbanspoon


  1. Nicely written review! I agree the bar service was disappointing, but it wouldn't stop me from visiting this place again. Good food and a cozy atmosphere.

  2. Thanks honey. It was a cool place. It will be interesting to see if the New York Times reviews it.