Aunt Jake's

New-school Italian comes to Mulberry Street

By James Oliver Cury

Mulberry Street, which is all that’s left of Little Italy these days, hosts a multitude of lookalike restaurants. The homogeneity is conspicuous, as if owners are forced to follow a formula: red-and-white tablecloths, giant menus perched on pedestals, and overly friendly barkers beckoning anyone within earshot. In contrast, Aunt Jake’s, which opened in early 2016, ignores these clichés and demonstrates what a modern Italian-American eatery can be.

As you approach the gray brick facade, you’ll notice that casual elegance has replaced old-world stuffiness. White French doors open up onto the sidewalk, revealing a subway-tiled, narrow kitchen with butcher-block counter on the left side—where pasta is made fresh daily—and a huge blackboard wall on the right listing the day’s specials. You could eat at a small table down here, but upstairs is larger and quieter. The menu fits on one sheet of paper and encourages a mix-and-match approach to the pastas: You pick a style (like pappardelle, rigatoni, or tagliatelle) and a sauce (like marinara, rabbit ragu, or puttanesca). No combo costs more than $15.
Recognizing that diners today want to know exactly what they’re eating and where it came from, chef-partner Carmine Di Giovanni has indicated, with red ink, which dishes are vegan and gluten-free—and that he’s sourcing quality ingredients: San Marzano tomatoes, Pat LaFrieda meats, and antibiotic-free chicken.

The burrata on toast is like bruschetta on steroids—a heaping mound that also includes pesto, oven-dried-tomatoes, and arugula. Spaghetti “carbonara” swaps duck confit for pancetta in a tangle of peas, Pecorino, and noodles with creamy egg on top. A thicker, shorter noodle stars in the penne rigate, which is tossed with butter and black pepper, and served on top of sweet, charred baby leeks.

While there’s no doubt you’ll leave here satisfied, if afterward you feel it’s still not time to call it a night, you’re in luck: The team that runs this joint also owns Mulberry Project, an unmarked speakeasy next door at 149 Mulberry Street.

hours

11 AM–11 PM daily

price range

$9 (rigatoni marinara) to $19 (fettuccine nero vongole)
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