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Porsena

photo by Robert Menzer

Reared in Rome, Sara Jenkins opened her pasta-centric restaurant in 2010 as a follow-up to the celebrated chef and writer’s wildly popular sandwich shop Porchetta. At Porsena and its adjoining wine bar, Extra Bar, Jenkins showcases her knack for crafting soulful, comforting pasta dishes, including a baked cannelloni that arrives bubbling in its terracotta casserole, filled with porky ragù and slathered in béchamel. Noodles are the star of the show, but the chef works wonders with more delicate flavors, like hard-seared cuttlefish with baby artichokes, and crostini that overflow with mozzarella (from famed downtown dairy purveyor Di Palo’s) under a shower of microplaned bottarga. Freed from the shackles of roasted pork, Jenkins lets her hair down for plates like Extra Bar’s grilled kim-cheese, an exemplary grilled cheese sandwich that features a puréed blend of aged cheddar, kimchi, and mayonnaise. During the summer, Jenkins turns Extra Bar into an experimental taco shack featuring tortillas filled with everything from fried hibiscus flowers to duck confit mole verde. Porsena is a restaurant that radiates with the passion of its owner — how else to explain the popularity of a pasta restaurant in this mad gluten-free world?