Santina is the restaurant equivalent of Sofia Vergara: sexy, exuberantly Latin and just bursting with fun. As it should be: it’s an eatery in a goofy glass box that’s directly under the uber-hip Highline Park, and everyone who comes to the Meatpacking District is here for a party. Santina fulfills that “mandate” with its looks and sound (lots of salsa music, full-sized palm trees instead of flower arrangements and bubblegum-colored chandeliers) and with a menu that’s built for large groups. This is one of the few restaurants in town where the sharing plates are truly shareable, though they’re so tantalizing, you may not want to give up a morsel. The most successful dishes include the ceccina (chickpea-flour pancakes, almost like Indian dosas, topped with mounds of avocado and nuts, or peppery tuna tartar), fab rice dishes (which aren’t risotto, but steamed rice soaked in butter and studded with such goodies as fine guanciale sausage or shrimp), the crisp fried seafood, and the unexpected mix of fried artichokes with grapes and cream.
- Pauline Frommer