Meet Marissa Lippert, Well+Good’s carnivorous, gourmand nutritionist who navigates the city’s most popular and indulgent restaurants with one eye on the scene and the other on the scale.
I am a nutritionist about to propose for the purpose of this article that you eat pasta with gusto. Shocking? Maybe. I have a love affair with L’Artusi, Gabe Thompson’s West Village restaurant where the homemade pasta is well worth ordering.
Contrary to popular belief, pasta is not the nutritional axis of evil. Yes, it’s a carbohydrate, but calorie for calorie it’s similar to other good carbs when it’s made with high-quality ingredients and served in appropriate portions.
Wondering how you can healthfully navigate the menu, order what you really want, and still leave a little room for Katherine Thompson’s (Gabe’s wife) must-have desserts? My seriously informed tips (I have my Registered Dietician license and an MS in Clinical Nutrition from NYU):
Plan your meal around veggies. Right off the bat, scout out a salad and/or a vegetable side or two to build your meal around. You’ll fill up faster on fewer calories (very sneaky). The salads here are not your average tossed mesclun: I love the butter lettuce with lemon crema, gorgonzola, hazelnuts, and olives; and the roasted mushrooms with fried egg, pancetta, and ricotta salata. Skip the tricolori salad, too heavy on the salt and anchovy paste.
Start light. Another way to start your meal is to order L’Artusi’s small crudo dishes. They’re perfect low-calorie starters because they pack in some filling protein and standout flavor. The escolar with avocado, chilies, and basil is great and the lean beef carpaccio is a winner.
Share your carbs. Thankfully the pastas are smartly portioned as first courses, and they’re perfect for splitting. Just make sure you do. Some of my favorite pastas: the garganelli with mushroom ragu; the cavatelli with spicy lamb sausage and Swiss chard (yes, I also have a thing for sausage, everything in moderation); and for a deceptively rich dish that’s not at all heavy or too creamy, the tagliatelle with Bolognese bianco.
Skip the secondi. If you’re a freak of nature and for some reason don’t like pasta, I really like the grilled octopus with potatoes, chilies, and olives and the grilled striped bass with artichokes and salsa verde.
Skip the bread, most of the time. Bread + pasta = marathon training meal. Not running one tomorrow? Then watch your step. L’Artusi’s delicious bread and olive oil is worth a few bites, but not more.
Observe the 3 to 5 bite rule for dessert. L’Artusi is among a handful of restaurants where I order pasta AND dessert. The key is to savor it and stop after 3 to 5 bites of the decadent bittersweet chocolate budino.
Last Bite Advice: Don’t be afraid of pasta (or carbs for that matter), but consider your caloric balance. An indulgent pasta dish for dinner might mean a simple salad for lunch, so your calories for the day end up equaling out in the end. And if you end up having a few too many forkfuls, a few extra minutes of exercise the next day and a healthy breakfast will keep you on top of your restaurant-going game.
L’Artusi, 228 West 10th Street, btwn Bleeker and Hudson, West Village, 10014, 212-255-5757, www.lartusi.com