The Orchard, Lower East Side, Manhattan, NYC ****

Q: What is it? A: An Italian restaurant serving not-so-traditional Italian food. Italian but still not Italian… if you are able to grasp the concept? Amazing flatbread. Great service. Very likable.

Plywood... now that used to be quite trendy a decade ago or so.

It’s called the Orchard. Says Wikipedia: “An orchard is an intentional planting of trees or shrubs that is maintained for food production.” Then the design made even less sense, I thought, before recalling that it’s located on Orchard St.

The inside is slightly better than the outside.

My opinion: The interior design is way better than the exterior. And the food is way better than the design altogether, which is just about the way it should be.

It’s the flatbread, stupid.
The Orchard is an Italian restaurant that isn’t strictly Italian. That’s a cool format if you ask me. John LaFemina who opened this, his third restaurant, invented the flatbread as a course that you would eat before the primi platti. Had I dropped in to order just a flatbread snack, I would have awarded the Orchard a fifth star on the double.

Mushroom ravioli! Mushroom ravioli!
Happy with the flatbread intro, I continue with the mushroom ravioli. The visual impact is none. It looks like your average ravioli but on contact with the palate it manages to score high points. It’s a great start. After that… I have no idea what I ordered, much less what arrived on my plate. Both the secondi and the dessert passed by without making an impression. This is a message to the Orchard kitchen: Not particularly good.
What works without flaws is the service. I see and hear nothing but professional attitude. The staff is not overly personal, which is fine as they keep the business running smoothly.

It doesn’t look like a restaurant.
While reading an interview I learn that the owner, John LaFemina, practically built the entire restaurant himself from scratch. Aha, that would explain to the cheap plywood solution of the front and the, errr… wooden spaceship interior. It looks more like a club aiming to attract a crowd of Art Director assistants or possibly those lesbian hipsters or the nervous film students that flock LES or… whatever. In the same interview LaFemina claims to be a control freak. In my opinion he should have sticked to the flatbread. That’s an area where he really is in control. But please don’t pay too much attention to my whining about the design. The Orchard IS a pleasant addition to the Lower East Side. I’ll definitely go there again.

The Orchard
162 Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
United States

Directions for your cabbie: Orchard Street between Stanton and Rivington.

Hotel on Rivington The perfect hotel if you want to stay in the area is the Hotel on Rivington. It’s not the only hotel in the area anymore, but it’s the best. Book it through

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