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all words: Laura Herman
all photos: Kimberly Cadena

Foodie trend radar tells us that pop-ups are the new food truck. But if all pop-ups are like PS7’s Italian night, a tribute to Chef Peter Smith’s Italian great grandmother’s cooking, this is a food trend that we’ll happily embrace.

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We stopped by PS7’s last Thursday to check out their new Italian “pop-up” night, where they transform a room of the restaurant into a homey Italian trattoria for one night a week twice a month—red checkered table cloths, candles, music and all.

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What follows is a special menu of simple but DELICIOUS Italian dishes, inspired by Chef Smith’s great grandmother’s Southern Italian cooking. Smith explained that he grew up eating these dishes and cooking them with his own family, so it’s fun to now share this part of his heritage with diners.

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Makes sense, because we could actually taste the home-cooked love that went into the food as we dug into heaping family-style plates of house-cured meats, antipasti, pastas, chicken, veal and eventually dessert…lots of it. I feel happy and full just thinking back on the evening.

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The photos speak for themselves, but some of our favorites were the arancini appetizer, rice balls stuffed with mozzarella, ricotta and salami (just a hint! great balance of flavor that didn’t over-power) and then served with a tomato confit and ricotta “schmear,” as well as the house-cured salumi plate.

I’ll admit that I came close to tears over the linguini carbonara that was rich, creamy and completely enhanced by the unique addition of house-made gin-belly pancetta. Fun fact: Chef Smith tinkers with using “gin mash,” the botanical byproduct of gin production, in his cooking and has played around curing meats with the gin mash—like the gin-belly pancetta we loved in the carbonara —making gin-mash powers, salts, and syrups. Very green, very cool.

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Garlic-y homemade linguini with a white clam sauce, parsley and cherry stones also wowed, as did the chicken francaise cooked traditionally with lemon, egg and parmesan, but haute-ed up with the  (we say AWESOME) addition of picked ramps. The food just kept on coming, and even when we were full, we couldn’t resist dunking pieces of bread into the zuppa di pesce to keep savoring the broth.

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We made room for dessert, of course, which was decidedly worth it. Chef Smith’s great-grandmother’s cannoli recipe just rocks. Not to mention the affogato made with cinnamon/vanilla ice cream and topped with espresso.

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Oh, and the hand-written menu was of the sweetest touches I’ve seen in a long time.

It wouldn’t be a visit to PS7’s, though, without a stop by the bar where mixtress Gina Chersevani holds court. Just earlier that day Gina was voted Express Night Out’s People’s Choice for Best Bartender in 2011, so we knew that the cocktails and wine-pairings would be top-notch. Beyond cocktails though, she’s been also making moves in the kitchen, and she debuted her most recent creation, “cuptails,” for us after dinner (second dessert, anyone?).

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The cuptails are essentially liquor-soaked cupcakes, so you get your booze and dessert in one bite. Pretty smart. Also potent—eating two cuptails is about the equivalent of drinking a martini. We also loved their NORMAL sizes compared to some larger-than-life cupcakes we’ve seen recently. With flavors like pumpkin walnut cake soaked in bourbon and topped with spice cream cheese, we’d happily bring these to any party we’re attending this season.

BEST NEWS EVER: WE HAVE SOME CUPTAILS TO GIVE AWAY. ONE WINNER (over age 21) will win six booze-filled “cuptails” each to enjoy with friends at PS 7’s bar or to-go to take away to their next party. YAY! TO ENTER TO WIN, LEAVE A COMMENT ON THIS POST TELLING US “WHY YOU COULD USE A CUPTAIL THIS WEEK”. WE’LL NOTIFY THE WINNERS BY FRIDAY.

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Need-to-know deets: PS7’s will be hosting pop-up Italian nights every two weeks on Thursday nights ONLY. The next pop up will be on Thursday 11/3, followed by 11/17, 12/1 etc. Pop-up prices range between $4 and $19. We’d recommend calling ahead to make a reservation since the seating is limited.

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