Eating at Santina is like being on an obnoxious cruise ship. The tropical decorations, although festive, are over-the-top and tacky. Your fellow diners are of the most annoying sort, the type that the Meatpacking district tends to attract, unfortunately, people of all ages who like to throw their money around wearing pastels and button downs, with an unusually high representation of bros and their girlfriends. You’re horrified by how you got talked into spending $17 on a disgusting tiki cocktail at this crazy circus, and you seriously contemplate leaving, but you can’t just leave, because you worked so hard scanning Opentable for months to get a table. The ship has already sailed on that option.
Fortunately the food at Santina makes this ride somewhat worth it. I say somewhat, because the food is outrageously overpriced, and some of the portions in certain dishes are insultingly small. The whole grilled porgy, for instance, was a complete misnomer. It was more accurately half of a fillet, covered in a forest of artichokes to hide how small it was. At first, we thought this was part one of the dish, perhaps this was porgy made two ways with part two coming later, but alas, that was all there was to it. The tortellini was excellent, coated in a pesto sauce that made the smooth ricotta filling pop, but it was truly an appetizer priced as an entree.
You really just have to face the fact that you will pay a lot for the food here. It’s sort of like the sticker shock you get from going to London when the exchange rate is bad and realizing that everything costs double. One bite of the restaurant’s signature dish, the cecina chickpea pancake, might make you think the money was well spent. Spread it with some salsa verde and you’ll be happy as a lamb eating one. The butternut carpaccio is also fantastic, a lattice of sweet, delicate pieces of squash reinforced by pumpkin seeds and cream. Just as you were about to forgive Santina for being so crazy and stingy, they come out with the wild rice calamari, a dish whose blandness can only be masked by tons of sauce. Your money can only go so far here.
You can’t have a big blowout dinner without dessert, and we went for the chocolate diplomatico, which the server sold as being super chocolatey. It was a pretty accurate description, imagine eating Toll House baking chocolate squares straight from the bag. It was a gaudy dessert that lacked finesse for sure, but totally fitting for the occasion and the place. I was pretty relieved by the time dinner was over. It wasn’t as bad as I expected, there were some highs followed by some low lows, but overall it was a memorable meal. Like a cruise, I would do it once but never again. Unless someone else paid.
820 Washington St (between Gansevoort and Little W. 12th St)
New York, NY 10014