“Mezzo Giornio” brings the boar, I bring the pain

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If I did my math correctly, which I typically don’t thanks to my public school education, Soho’s “Mezzo Giornio” is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year, a momentous hallmark for a restaurant in NYC. Passing by the place on the corner of Spring St., I glanced over their menu and found some intriguing items that I had to try – specifically their pasta with wild boar (seen above). Thankfully, the restaurant has a great prix-fixe menu for $20 (not including tip) that offers up a healthy taste of their soup and pasta. With a price like that, who could say no? Well, I guess people who can’t eat gluten, but aside from them, who could say no (and much like a hipster, they are barely human anyway, so what do they matter)?

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“Mezzo Giornio” wastes no time, bringing out a curtain opener of briny, meaty-tasting olives in different sizes and colors, along with some crusty bread and crunchy breadsticks. It was hard not to resist the lure of carbs, but I was on good behavior and held off, instead tearing through the earthen-colored olives like a lawnmower cuts through grass. Besides, I had a date with a bowl of pasta, and I wanted to give her my undivided attention.

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The minestrone soup (which I unfortunately was unable to get a shot of before it was cheesed) was essentially making a lot out of a little, meaning it had a variety of veggies with a well-balanced amount of each. Loaded with carrots, celery, zucchini, string beans, asparagus, and kidney & white beans, a few potato chunks, and a single brussel sprout, split in half, this was a light and delicious soup that was thick on ingredients. There were a few grains of rice floating on the bottom to absorb the savory stock, but that crusty bread that I held out on were handy in this scenario.

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The reason I came in the first place was to try the “Pappardelle al rag├╣ di cinghiale”, home made pappardelle with wild boar ragout. Foot-long strands of broad noodles (cooked al dente of course) swept across the plate, with the smoky boar meat-sauce gently blanketing those peaks of pasta. The bold ragu was the centerpiece here, but it was overshadowed by the dominating taste of peppercorns. Not ground pepper – I mean the whole solid pepper corn. Biting into just one of them is like a hand grenade going off in your mouth, and this sauce was filled with dozens of them. My fork began dancing with the plate, doing the “avoid-dance” to dodge those annoying black holes of pain, which was really disappointing. When I got mouthfuls of the sauce without it, it was pleasant and sweet with a wonderful hint of heat at the end. Sadly, not abducting a peppercorn into my twirled fork of pasta was nearly impossible, so I had to grin and bear the one thing that marred the otherwise great meal.

With no pasta left by the end of it, that crusty bread that had been sitting across from me, mocking me, was the perfect way to suck up all the remaining ragu. The sauce truly was the kind that you needed to absorb every last drop, lest ye be a sinner for wasting that crimson gold.

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After depressingly turning down the very tasty dessert options, I was surprised when my check came with a plate of chocolate and vanilla cookies. A bit on the hard and dry side, they would have been perfect with a cup of hot coffee or cold milk, but even without that I still enjoyed my bite-sized treats.

“Mezzo Giornio” is a quiet restaurant with bold flavors. The relaxed ambience of the restaurant goes wonderfully with the powerful aromas and tastes of the food, letting the meal speak for itself. I had a great lunch at the place, in spite of the explosive pepper corns, and I am sure I will be back the next time I have a hankering for some authentic Italian food in a quaint and comfortable atmosphere.

Mezzo Giornio is located on 195 Spring St. in Manhattan, NY.

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