So together with his brother Pierpaolo, who owns La Gioconda and Paolo Catini who has worked at the stoves at downtown's Le Streghe, Arenella opened La Giara.
Arenella's place is in Murray Hill, where there is hardly a meatball in sight. This area isn't exactly a hotbed of culinary experimentation, not that locals don't find homey staples like lasagna popping up as specials at the few neighborhood eateries that do exist. But chef Catini, who hails from the Abruzzi region, makes rustic fare. And patrons might rightly think they've found their lucky penne when it comes mixed with portobello mushroom and spinach.
Complimentary garlic perfumed bruschetta of chewy country bread topped with lusciously ripe cubes of marineted tomato hints at good things to come.
Starters are kind of unfussy fare that pristine ingredients to pull off - the raw beef carpaccio with Parmesan and arugola for instance, or the uncooked tuna in a tonno alla tartara.
Pearly lengths of calamari are grilled to tender perfection and served with oil and lemon-slicked greens. And artichoke with breadcrumb stuffing and wine and lemon sauce is impossible to stop eating.
While one night's special ravioli ($15) seemed slightly undercooked with a too-sweet pumpkin filling, another night's spaghetti with lamb ragout had the kind of slow-cooked sauce and handmade al dente pasta that made it just right for a chilly night($12).
Dessert include fresh, fruity sorbet as well chocolate crepes, for those who want to linger.
Weekend brunch and Monday live jazz add to the reasons there's usually a lively mix of neighborhood food lover at the white-clothed table here.