Since its doors first opened in 2008, this West Village charmer has racked up lines — in the thousands online and hours-long in person — thanks to its focus on refined, rustic Italian small plates and a wine list that’s the envy of any oenophile.
For more than a decade, L’Artusi has been a go-to spot for anyone and everyone who adores pasta and appreciates savoring a bowl of perfectly executed garganelli, or twirling strands of bucatini slicked with tomato, pancetta, and chiles. And now, thanks to a 2020 build-out of a covered and heated patio that unleashed 24 extra seats, your odds of snagging a table here have risen ever so slightly.
We’re upping those chances with this installment of The One Who Keeps the Book, where L’Artusi’s general manager, Jorie Morales, who’s been part of the team for 11 years, gives us the scoop on how to get in and what to order after you’ve gotten that much sought-after Resy.
Resy: How many seats are there at L’Artusi?
Morales: Roughly 150 total, including 24 in the outside patio and 30 among the three counters.
When do reservations drop on Resy?
That’s about two weeks out, every day at 9 a.m. We used to do a month but during COVID, the rules from the city were constantly changing as far as what the capacity was. That’s why it changed.
How quickly do seats get booked out?
We have people clicking those buttons right when they get released at 9 a.m. They can get totally booked out within a few hours.
Are any of the seats in the restaurant held for walk-ins?
That’s what we utilize our 30 counter seats for. They’re also for our neighborhood regulars. That’s kind of been their thing; they come in and have a drink whenever they can.
What time would you recommend stopping by to snag one of the walk-in seats?
Now that we’re doing lunch, that service is pretty open. We usually have tables available then, and lunch is from noon until 2:30 p.m. But for dinner, your best bet is to try to come when we open up at 5 p.m. If there’s no table available then and there, we can try to accommodate you on our waitlist. And our front door team does a really good job of working people in and out. That doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a spot, but it’s probably the best bet.
What is the typical wait time for a walk-in?
It really depends on when they come in. If you’re coming in the beginning of the night, you’re probably getting seated typically in an hour and a half. If our waitlist is totally booked, it’s either three hours, or we’re fully committed.
Can guests have a cocktail while they wait for their table?
Of course. We definitely have spaces for them to hang out and lounge with a cocktail. And if for some reason they really want to sit and have a cocktail somewhere, luckily, we just opened up our sister spot, B’Artusi, on the corner of 10th and Hudson. That’s the place to lounge, and it’s super-fun and sexy. We’ll text to let the guests know when their tables are ready, and then they have less than a 10-minute walk back to us.
What is your prime time for dinner reservations?
Prime time is definitely Thursday through Saturday from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. Those are the biggest slots on the Resy Notify list for when people are trying to get in.
How many covers do you do on your busiest night?
Roughly 330. That’s three and a half rounds.
Getting to know our staff, on an actual, real human level is honestly probably the best way to get a table.
When is L’Artusi the least busy?
Lately, I would say Sunday brunch. It used to be huge, because it was more of a family brunch — not a boozy brunch. But because of COVID, a lot of the families moved out. So, now our Sunday brunches aren’t as busy as they used to be. And then as far as nighttime, I would definitely say Monday and Tuesday nights. We used to have a lot of the power suit-wearing crowd come in on those nights to decompress after work, or maybe even do opening deals or whatever have you, but with people not having the power to expense meals as much, that kind of declined a little bit. We’re seeing it slowly come back though.
How long is your Notify list on average?
On average, let’s say 2,000. We had 3,500 people on the Notify list when the [pandemic-related] restrictions eased up.
Can you book tables for larger groups?
We have a few tables open for six-tops. We have one large table that can accommodate seven to eight. And then we have a beautiful private dining room upstairs. It’s located smack dab in the middle of all of our wine. And we can accommodate up to 14 people in there. It’s funny because we’ll have a 90th birthday party followed by a 24th birthday rager followed by a med-tech dinner. Yeah, it’s bizarre. We cast a pretty wide net. Sometimes, we can’t call it as far as what type of clientele we’re going to get.
Are there any other ways to snag a table there?
One thing that I love about L’Artusi is that we’ve always broken the fourth wall. We encourage our staff to be who they are, and really connect with our guests. Getting to know our staff, on an actual, real human level is honestly probably the best way to get a table. You know, a lot of people want to play the power card; they might say something like, “Can I meet your manager?” Or they try to palm the front door.
The majority of our staff has been together for at least eight years now. So, there’s a great litmus test. I always argue that they’re the bigger gatekeepers than I am. And if you can create an actual bond, a relationship with our staff, they’re the ones who will ask me and say, “Hey, Jorie, can we make sure you get this person in?” That’s the best way to snag a table.
A Closer Look at L’Artusi
Have you had anything funny happen at the door with a patron trying to get in?
I had a guest at the front door tell me that he would eat salsa bianco out of my a** crack.
Did they get in?
No, absolutely not. We’ve also had people claim they know L’Artusi the owner, but L’Artusi’s not the owner. He’s a dead Italian guy who wrote cookbooks. There’s definitely a lot of the greasing of the palms. And I’ve had people talking to me, face to face, saying they know the general manager.
I wish that people were more original and creative. If someone came in and sang a song like, “Please let me in. Blah blah, blah, blah blah,” I would let that person in ASAP. Because you know they did something original and creative.
What’s the best seat in the house?
If I am with my family, as a party of four, there’s a table that’s by the stairs near the plant. It’s a round banquette. I love that. If it’s a super-sexy date night, there are two seats, kind of tucked away in our second counter, where you can see everything. You’re close enough to all the action, yet far enough away to actually have an intimate conversation. And then if I’m a solo diner, there’s the bar. I’ll always sit at the bar and try to sit next to the well, because I want to hear all the juicy gossip — like whether or not a date’s going successfully. And that goes for every restaurant in every country, I swear. In New York City, there’s taxicab confessions, but I think we should have restaurant table or bar confessions, too.
Can guests request those specific tables that you talked about?
So, the counter seats we don’t we don’t take requests for. But yeah, we will always do our best to try to accommodate those requests. Guests can request those via Resy.
What kind of music do you play?
That depends on the night. I try to feel the vibe of the floor. Sometimes, it’s starting off with lofi or bebop jazz. We love to throw in a little bit of ’90s and early 2000’s hip-hop. Sometimes, I’ll play rock — the owners are hit-or-miss about that — but I love it. I love me some Jimi Hendrix on a Thursday night. Sometimes, we’ll do some cool hipster stuff like Vulfpeck or Ezra Furman. For lunches, I’m usually playing neo-soul like Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Raphael Saadiq. I collect records; I like to be as eclectic as possible. I really try to feel the vibe of the restaurant based on the clientele and based on the pace that we’re trying to set.
You’re parlaying your DJ skills into the restaurant gig.
Yeah, no. I mean, Idris Elba is still doing it in his 50s [note: he’s actually 49], but I don’t know if my 40-year-old self could do that.
It’s Friday night at 7 p.m. Can you set the scene?
It’s buzzing a little bit. We’re starting to get into our second pop. Counters are completely full. People are starting to hang around, waiting for those rockin’ spots. The lights are definitely dimmed low. I love low, sexy lighting. The owner likes it a bit lighter and brighter, but I feel like New York is dark, seedy, and sexy. We’re probably listening to WizKid on a Friday night. You get those fun, synth-y vibes with fast African beats. So you start to feel that pulse get a little bit faster, right? And then, all of a sudden, you start to notice the shoulders of people moving. That’s always fun; anytime I can get people to move their shoulders while they’re eating, and they’re enjoying the conversation, laughing, we’re golden. You’re starting to hear more “chicka-chicka-chicka” from the cocktails [being made] because cocktails are getting a little bit heavier. You’re definitely smelling a lot more Bolognese. The dates are starting to roll in. And the gossip’s getting a little bit thicker.
I don’t know of any other Italian restaurant that has a Filipino general manager, a Filipino beverage director, and a Mexican assistant general manager. We have a squad of people of color really putting some soul into it.
What are the dishes that guests definitely need to order?
I’m going to go with a curveball. The garganelli. It’s a sleeper dish. It’s 100% vegetarian, yet everyone thinks that there’s meat in there. It’s essentially a penne-esque noodle, done with cremini mushrooms that are slowly cooked down with a hint of chile, and a splash of cream to hold it all together. And then staying on the whole idea of mushrooms: the roasted mushrooms are my favorite dish of all time, hands down. It’s an appetizer. It’s four different types of mushrooms, pancetta, pickled chiles, fried egg, and ricotta salata. It’s banging.
I also have to give some love to the dessert team. Everybody loves the olive oil cake, but there’s a rotating sundae menu, and I’m all about the bananas Foster sundae life right now. We have the banana gelato that actually tastes like bananas. No artificial flavors. It’s 100% real bananas. And the way that the bananas are caramelized — it’s gorgeous! I’ve never seen anybody not finish that dish.
What would you say differentiates L’Artusi’s approach to Italian cooking in a city where there are so many Italian restaurants?
We try to keep it as rustic as possible. We don’t hyper-analyze any certain region. And we’re consistent; we have dishes that have been there since day one. They don’t need to change because that’s what the people want. Like the spaghetti. When you read spaghetti on the menu, it can sound so basic. But ours doesn’t have tomato sauce. It’s cooked for 14 hours in a Parmesan stock with Parmesan rinds. There are beautiful breadcrumbs and chile. It’s actually really nuanced. I think people forget that the things that seem simple are the hardest to do.
How is L’Artusi’s approach to ambience different from other Italian restaurants?
The fact that they have a Filipino guy running it. I don’t know of any other Italian restaurant that has a Filipino general manager, a Filipino beverage director, and a Mexican assistant general manager. We have a squad of people of color really putting some soul into it.
We also have the benefit of having a team that’s been together so long and has a good idea of what the neighborhood is. It’s the West Village. You have the A-list actors popping up left and right. Then you have old New Yorkers. Some of those buildings are rent-controlled forever, so these people have been in the neighborhood since the ’70s. There’s a lot of high-end shopping there, and some of the best dive bars. It’s high-brow, low-brow. The neighborhood has changed, and there are more young kids now, and we’re trying to get to know them, too. There’s this really nice young couple with a French bulldog that has a lot of personality, for example. And we want an actual, friendly neighborhood relationship with our locals, especially.
I think we’re always going to be able to cater to the neighborhood while being true to ourselves. It goes back to the personalities. It’s a different vibe at L’Artusi because we encourage the staff to actually get to know you. I think my squad is dope as sh*t — the veterans that are still there and some cool new people that we hired.
L’Artusi is open for lunch from noon to 2:30 p.m., Mondays through Fridays; for dinner from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 5 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays; and for brunch from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Caroline Shin is a food journalist, and founder of the Cooking with Granny video and workshop series spotlighting immigrant grandmothers. Watch her award-winning show on YouTube, and follow her @CookingWGranny and @CarolineStoriesNYC. Follow Resy, too.