photo by Mike Morales

In the seven years since dell’anima debuted, chef Gabe Thompson’s downtown dining domain has grown to include L’Artusi, Anfora, and L’Apicio, while his original spot has remained true to its original intention: to cater to the neighborhood and the industry alike through surprising and memorable Italian fare. A convivial mix of patrons buzz under Arcade Fire tracks, and six counter seats beckon neighborhood regulars and the city’s top chefs (Alfred Portale and Anita Lo among them). House-made pastas put Thompson and his team on the map, but it’s the pollo al diavolo — a boned, skin-on half chicken that packs a punch of smoked paprika, fennel pollen, and chile flakes — and the octopus appetizer, charred and accompanied by chorizo and chicory, that have gained a permanent place on the menu. Dishes find good company in Joe Campanale’s wine list, a compilation of 150 small-production selections and curiosities (think cellar-temperature orange wine by the glass). Service is serious here, creating a striking balance between uptown sophistication and downtown charisma. That’s perhaps most apparent during the warm months, when a mini-cluster of sidewalk seats becomes one of the city’s most charming settings for a meal.