Hell’s Kitchen in NYC can be quite literally, a hell for vegans, what with its limited selection of vegan eats. But on a recent outing, I discovered that even hell can have a silver lining… in the form of comforting Italian food.
Being half frozen and starving on 9th avenue, I gravitated to Mario’s Trattoria like a moth to flame. It helps that their ambiance is that of a cosy one… like an undiscovered Italian nook, outfitted with a red-brick interior and wooden furniture. Perfect for a casual, intimate and familiar dining experience.
Right away, we were seated and given plenty of time to peruse the appropriately compact menu — no six pages-long eyesore here! I told them I was vegan, and the waiter immediately suggested the Rigatoni Pomodori for me, which I ordered, of course! the service in general was friendly, helpful and unhurried, which was refreshing.
Garlic Knots –
I’m always wary of ordering garlic knots, mostly because I hate it when they use garlic powder instead of real, fresh garlic. This time, I asked if they do use real garlic, and yes! They do!
The knots were a bit small for me though… at $5.00 for five pieces ($1 apiece!), I expected some sizable knots. They were just a bit too puny for me. Flavorwise, I have no complaints, the knots kind of satisfied my craving for ’em and plenty of garlic oil was added to grease ’em up a bit.
Rigatoni Pomodori –
Me and pasta have always been best of friends, so it’s no surprise that I really enjoyed this dish. The rigatoni was cooked perfectly, not too mushy/firm. The tomato sauce tasted fresh and had plenty of tangy tomato chunks scattered throughout. Garlic, olive oil, fresh chopped basil and sautéed spinach elevated the dish to one super-satiating meal. Overall, it definitely hit the spot, though it didn’t blow me away.
Bottom line – If I’m ever out on 9th ave and 37th street again and in need of a bite to eat, I’ll definitely re-visit Mario’s Trattoria again… but I wouldn’t go out of my way to come back.