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A Lusty Love Letter to Italian Simplicity

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John Wyckoff
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The menu at King, which was opened last fall on the western edge of SoHo, by three enterprising young women, reads like a lusty love letter to Italian simplicity—something like what Meryl Streep’s Italian-Iowan housewife in “The Bridges of Madison County” would cook for Clint Eastwood’s lonely photographer, to show him the lost art of food as pleasure.

Coniglio alla cacciatora, onglet chargrilled over rosemary branches, poached octopus with bottarga di muggine: every item on the short list (which changes daily) seems to have ancient roots, has probably been finished with a deep, peppery olive oil, and may possibly be an ideal version of itself.

This is all thanks to the British co-chefs Jess Shadbolt and Clare de Boer, who cooked together at London’s exalted River Café; the American Annie Shi, who previously worked at J. P. Morgan, manages the dining room.

It’s small and cozy, in gentle cream and yellow tones, with a white-tablecloth formality that’s slightly confusing for such an unassuming downtown spot.

Better is the panisse, long strips of fried chickpea dough that are salted and just the right amount of oily.

With it are sage leaves that have been fried until brittle, banishing the mustiness of the herb and bringing out its verdant essence.

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John Wyckoff
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