I recently had one of the best meals I've had in recent months. I went with my family to Convivium Osteria (68 5th Avenue, between St. Marks Place and Bergen Street, 718-857-1833) last Friday, on one of the most bitter cold nights this month. It's an Italian/Iberian eatery, specializing in seafood, pastas and meats in hearty sauces, broths and combinations. The atmosphere is farmhouse rustic with dark wood tables & chairs and old-looking farm tools and implements lining the walls. It's cozy and charming and the waitstaff seem proud of what's being served.
We were seated in the back area as the front room and the downstairs room were both full. It was slightly chilly back there, despite the heaters they had turned on, but it was no matter to us, for we had the most delicious, hearty and well-prepared meals (with the finest seasonal and farm-raised meats and vegetables). A narrow, wooden staircase leads to the downstairs room which feels like it's part wine-cellar & part cave and is definitely a reason to eat here. It's like you're in someones special secret hideout, with only a handful of tables in the small space.
On to the food! We had a special appetizer of baby clams and chorizo in a tomato-onion broth, assorted seafood tapas for two, Baby Back Pork Ribs, Braised Rabbit and Gnocchi. The Appetizers were amazing. The clams were bite-sized, flavorful & plentiful and the chorizo was nicely spicy. The broth was full and hearty with onion and a bit of tomato. it was served in a gorgeous, dark tureen.
The seafood tapas for two included sardines (which were sweet and fresh), croquettes with melted cheese and fish, garlic shrimp and a fillet of a white fish. It was incredibly tasty and beautiful as well.
My sister started with the Arugula Salad which I think ended up being the only disappointment of the night. The greens weren't spicy, the dressing was a bit too sticky and sweet, but the cheese was sharp and strong.
I ordered the Pork Ribs served over a bed of polenta and covered in a tomato sauce that was thick and hearty. This dish was fantastic, with the meat falling off the bone and so juicy and tender. The polenta was thick and creamy and the sauce was savory and balanced the mild polenta well.
The Spinach and Italian Ewe Ricotta Gnocchi sprinkled with Asiago cheese were good, but the portion was on the small side. They were light and fluffy and perfect if you're not in the mood for a large meal.
The Braised Rabbit with Olives, Capers and Prosciutto was served over polenta cakes and a sprig of rosemary. This was the best rabbit I've ever eaten. It was tender and gamey, but not dry at all and so flavorful. Again, the polenta served a nice mild balance to the strong flavors of the rabbit, olives & capers.
I loved my meal here and will definitely be back again soon! It's a great place for a romantic dinner, or a celebration of any kind too!