Porsena NYC: Sara Jenkins’s New Pasta Restaurant

Porsena NYC exterior with red antique lights, a big open window and cafe etched into the stonework outside

Chef Sara Jenkins, of considerable East Village renown for her amazing sandwiches at tiny Porchetta, has opened a "real", multi-tabled pasta place near Cooper Square, Porsena NYC. So far, however–and despite serving one of the best plates of food we've had all year–there seems to be more growing pains than dining pleasures in her endeavors.


Porsena restaurant serves up a plate of heaping olive oil poached baby octopus with celery, parsley, olives and lemon

First, the good news: we had one of the best dishes of the year the other night at Chef Sara Jenkins's new pasta-heavy restaurant Porsena, a pretty, lively little place just a few blocks over from her justifiably adored sandwich shop Porchetta. The dish was an appetizer, a generous serving of Olive Oil Poached Baby Octopus, tossed with celery, parsley and olives, drenched in lemon, the cephalopod extraordinarily, melt-in-your-mouth tender and tasting of the sea. This was the first thing out the kitchen that we tasted, and our hopes for the rest of Porsena's menu, already high, were sent soaring.  

Porsena NYC pasta dish of anneloni with breadcrumbs, sausage and mustard greens

Now, we bow to no one in our admiration for Jenkins's eponymous creation at Porchetta (the pig meat so juicy and sweet, the skin so crackly, the whole thing a magnificent explosion of textures and flavors), and the octopus starter at Porsena NYC was so perfect, that it's almost painful to reveal that the rest of our experience here, over the course of two different nights, was something of a disaster. 

Porsena restaurant serves up pasta al ragu with meat sauce

The two pastas we sampled at the Porsena restaurant, from the section of the menu around which the entire operation is based, were flat-out terrible. The bowl of ring-shaped "Anneloni" pasta, for example, was gummy, and covered in unadvertised breadcrumbs that were more-than-slightly off, and altogether suffered from a lack of any of its promised spicy lamb sausage or mustard greens. Worse than that, even, was the Pasta Al Ragu, the maccheroncini cold and crusty, as if it had been sitting on the counter for a while before being finished by a meager spoonful or two of tepid, flavorless meat ragu. It was like something we might have made when we were 17. At 3:00 in the morning. And very drunk. AND it costs $16! 

Sweet meat with onions and mushrooms at Porsena NYC

Rounding off the disappointments was Jenkins's Pork Aspic which, given her skill with the sweet meat over at Porchetta, you would think would be slam dunk, but you would think wrong. This dish tasted exclusively like garlic, nothing like pig. We have faith that Jenkins will turn things around here at Porsena NYC, but we suggest waiting a bit before your first visit, or you're likely never to go back. 

Porsena NYC Detail 

Porsena restaurant is located on East 7th Street between 3rd and 2nd Avenues, and is open every day for dinner from 6:00 p.m. until approximately 10:00 p.m.  

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