Located in the basement level of an apartment complex off Houston Street, Gaia Café is a quaint and distinctly European eatery that serves artisanal Italian cuisine. A short descent down a flight of stairs transports you into a space decorated with prints of vintage advertisements and antique maps reminiscent of the Italian culture that the Milanese chef, Gaia Bagnasacco, brought to New York.
Most of the menu items are less than $10, and the dishes themselves transcend anything that you’d imagine for what’s being served. For just $5, the paninis are an easy go-to item on the menu. Simple, tasty ingredients are layered inside crisp focaccia bread that is baked fresh every day.
The spinach and ricotta gnocchi diverges from the traditional starchy dumplings allowing for the tastes of fresh spinach and chunks of tomato to really take the spotlight.
The green lasagna–with a lighter pesto cream sauce that is satisfying but not too heavy–is a fresh take on its traditional meatier ancestor. Thick globs of ricotta cheese are layered under tender noodles in the pesto cream sauce which doubles as great dipping for the focaccia served on the side.
Aside from these popular menu items, Gaia’s special menu also features a handful of unique dishes that rotate daily—a great reason to visit this Lower East Side gem more often.
Address: 251 E Houston St (between Avenue A and Norfolk)
Hour of Operation: Mon-Fri: 8am to 7pm; Sat: 8am to 10pm; Sun closed