Tripe is perhaps the starter-gut of the offal universe. Aside from a very slight (and sometimes pleasant) wet-doggy undertone, it doesn't challenge the eater the way that a strongly iron-tasting liver might; cooked properly, it doesn't demand the crunchy mouth-workout that some intestines do. No, tripe is easy to love, especially when it's braised to tenderness and sops up some nice sauce.
Tripe is most often the stomach lining of a ruminant (an animal that chews its cud), although pork tripe is also common. Because a cow has three stomachs, this offal has different character depending on which stomach it came from. The variety you see most often is from the reticulum -- honeycomb tripe, so called because of its network of crevasses. It's those lovely nooks and crannies that makes tripe the ultimate sauce delivery system, and a textural wonder.
Although stomach lining has never fallen out of popularity, some of the best tripe in the city can be found at two newly opened restaurants.
Maialino stews its tripe in the style of Trastevere, a Rome neighborhood. The lining is cut thickly, so that you don't lose that tiny bit of chew when the tripe goes tender, and braised in tomato sauce zested with mint. Then it's showered with sharp, sheep's milk Pecorino, and more fresh mint. The cheese clings to the tripe and lends richness. It's simple and totally delicious.
At Colicchio & Sons, veal breast gets a needed lift from a savory-sweet-sour ragout of tripe, the organ meat cooked until completely tender, the sauce tasting of long-simmered tomato and onion. It's a case of offal rescuing a ho-hum dish.
Next on the tripe list to try is the tripe alla Parmigiana with a fried egg at Locanda Verde.