Sauce is an Italian restaurant that is something of an anomaly here in NYC. Where else will people eat standing up that isn’t a lunch counter? The food is that good? Yes. It is. I’ve been here a few times, and every single time – the place is packed to the gills – and no one seems to mind at all. Sure, you’d like a table, but lack of one for a few minutes might not deter you from eating and drinking at this haven on the Lower East Side.
Despite the name and the vat of the good stuff in easy view at the center of the kitchen and surrounding bar, Sauce specializes in rustic Italian cuisine – with dishes ranging from roasted bone marrow to a mushroom medley in a pappardelle. If you like truffle, they’ll come shave some on your dish like it was black pepper. All of the food prep is “farm-to-table”, and done in the open kitchen. While the butcher may be slicing up your favorite cut on one side, another chef is hand-making your pasta on the other. A healthy variety of wines shelve the wooden beams overhead.
Sauce’s warm and inviting atmosphere goes perfectly with the simple but well-executed (and rather reasonably priced) traditional dishes. As the restaurant recently turned a year old, and only seems to gain momentum, I can only imagine that authentic Italian family-style dining is the benchmark famed restaurateur Frank Prisinzano must have been shooting for.
Choosing which “ragu by the piece” (or what meat to go over which base) may be the only difficulty I’ve experienced. I tried the sausage over some of the best polenta I’ve ever had. The Bolognese sauce that Prisinzano credits to his mother graces many dishes but is best in the lasagna. The meatballs are stellar and possibly alone worth the trip. And this is NYC, where there is no shortage of Italian restaurants – but as long as Sauce is here, reminding me of everything that is good and perfect about “gravy”, I will be there.
Sauce now has a take-out window for late night revelers, and a pretty entertaining website if you want to more about the proprietor and his winning concept.
78 Rivington Street
New York, NY