[2015 Update: Eater reported that Commerce has closed.]
Last year, Eater NY named Commerce among the 20 most underrated restaurants in New York. It's easy, however unfortunate, to see why this restaurant can get overlooked, tucked away as it is on the unassuming Commerce Street far from the usual commercial stretches of the West Village. Here's my pitch to get it off that list.
Commerce is, quite simply, a very satisfying place and our favorite meal from our recent New York trip. The restaurant's charming interior feels very traditional Manhattan: leather banquettes line the walls, above which are slightly angled mirrors and, in the rear, a painted mural. Columns, subway-style tiles and a handsome bar complete the setting which works as well for a romantic dinner for two as it does for drinks with a group of friends.
The menu, like a lot menus these days, leans Italian but isn't a slave to it. Pasta, gnocchi and meatballs sit comfortably next to Korean-style pork chop, steak Diane and the popular roast chicken for two, which I'll be tempted by next time we visit.
And there will surely be a next time with food as good as this. We went the Italian route with light and flavorful ricotta gnocchi served with Italian sausage, tomato and scallions and a hearty short rib ravioli with hen of the woods mushrooms and barolo sauce. Our salad starters--20 herbs and lettuces (including my favorite, mint) with manchego, olive oil and lemon, and romaine hearts with tomato, onion and a generous portion of Oregon blue cheese--were likewise tasty and satisfying.
A surprising highlight was the bread basket, with echoes of Le Diplomate in terms of its variety and quality. The warm assortment are made in-house by "Head Bread Baker" Heather Bortnam. The soft pretzel may be the star selection, but don't pass up the poppy seed roll, sausage biscuit or baguette.
Desserts are aimed at your inner child: birthday cake, cookies and ice cream. We shared a nostalgic banana pudding with Nilla wafers.
The selection of cocktails are another treat. The menu divides them into original "house" and "classic" styles. The Debonair, from the latter, was a satisfying mix of Scotch and ginger while Chris's Agave Stinger was an intriguing play on the margarita with flavorful burnt honey syrup.
The restaurant has a nicely varied wine list, but I wish they offered more choices by the glass (there were only four reds on offer when we visited). It would also be helpful if the staff knew a little more about those choices. That minor gripe aside, the staff was extremely friendly, particularly our affable server.
Its name may be "commerce" but Chef/Owner Harold Moore's restaurant is warm and inviting way beyond a mere exchange of money and goods. Although we visited on a hot summer night, this strikes me as an ideal place to steal away from the cold and warm up with delicious comforting food.
Commerce, 50 Commerce Street (on the corner with Barrow Street between Hudson Street and Bedford Street), New York, N.Y. (West Village). (212) 524-2301. Reservations: Open Table.