It’s Amore! Italian Restaurants & New York (Part III)
December 10, 2009 § 2 Comments
This is the third, and final, installment of “It’s Amore: Italian Restaurants & New York.” There really is a love affair between the city and good Italian fare. Here is the last batch. Most are downtown, but there are a few on the Upper East and Upper West sides. As in the previous two postings, each restaurant name is linked to its web site, or to the New York Magazine listing if no web site is available. Check out the sites or OpenTable for details and reservations.
Peasant – This is a fantastic Tuscan-Italian spot that has been serving NoLita locals and tourists alike for ten years. In a modern, but warm brick-lined, dimly lit space with an open fire for cooking in the back, you’ll be able to feast on Tonno Con Ceci Neri, Anatra Con Fagioli, or Barbabietola E Gorgonzola to start. As a main, I like Spaghetti Alle Vongole or the Orecchiette Con Cime Di Rape, if you’re in the mood for pasta, and Orata Alla Griglia (fish) or Agnello Con Polenta (lamb) if you’re not. The wine list is excellent and the wait staff will help you make your selection. Warning: Even if you’re off bread, you will find it hard to resist their chewy Italian pane served with complementary ricotta cheese. And if you’re looking for a Kelly Ripa Italian favorite, this is one of her spots (along with Emilio’s Ballato, the new hotspot Carbone and upscale Ciano, not to mention Mercer Kitchen, La Esquina, Catch, Abe & Arthur’s, The Dutch and Buddakan, which are also great, but they’re not Italian so they’re not on the list. And now, Michael Strahan is chiming in with his favorite restaurants. Case in point, his mention of the new Mexican hotspot in the Meatpacking District – he ran into Katie Holmes there – La Cenita).
Downtown Cipriani – Yes, Cipriani’s. There is no more coveted a spot than an outdoor table on the tiny sidewalk patio on West Broadway. This is all about seeing and being seen. The food is excellent too which, despite sky high prices, makes it a tough reservation. You have to start with a Bellini, served for the first time in 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice. To eat, try the Prosciutto crudo from Parma or Baby artichoke salad and avocados and shaved parmesan. For main, your choice … you can’t go wrong with any of them.
Giorgione – On the western edge of Soho, this is a gem of a find. I love everything about the place: the food, the wine, the service, the space. I took a good friend in from San Francisco and we couldn’t stop talking about it for days. The Insalata di Fave was one of the reasons. Order it. Or if you prefer, try the Carciofi alla Giudia or Tonno con Avocado e Rugola. We had pastas for our mains (mainly to save room for dessert): Bucatini all’ Amatriciana and Risotto Giorgione. Now, assuming you can manage a bite or two of something sweet, you can try the Pera Cotta or Crostata Rovesciata alle Mele or one of their choices of Gelato. The wine list is expansive and offers reasonably-priced options. It’s worth the trip.
Upper East Side
Accademia di Vino – This is a newer addition to the Manhattan restaurant scene, but a good one. Both the wine bar and restaurant serve a broad selection of hot and cold antipasti, carpaccio, tartare, and crudo, salumi, formaggi, pizza alla griglia, pasta (primi), and fish, chicken, beef (secondi), and, of course, wine. Prices are reasonable and the atmosphere lively and inviting.
Elio’s – An old-school Italian neighborhood favorite – and another one of Regis Philbin’s favorite restuarants – Elio’s is an Upper East Side staple. Think dark wood, a friendly bar, sconces for lighting, along with a classic Northern Italian menu, a vast wine list, and excellent service. You might like the Shrimp & White Bean Salad or Fried Zucchini to start. If you’re with a group, order an antipasti platter. Scaloppine Piccata and Marsala are both good choices, as is the Broiled Veal Chop. Ditto any of the pastas. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience.
Upper West Side
Gabriel’s Bar & Restaurant – Excellent Northern Italian cuisine on the Upper West Side. Within walking distance to Lincoln Center, this is a perfect spot for a meal pre-/post-theater or opera. I took my parents before seeing South Pacific and we all enjoyed the food and the service. Starters are all good, but to narrow the field, Octopus Carpaccio, Field Mache and Beets, and Baby Arugula are noteworthy. For pastas, try the Pappardelle with duck ragu, Ravioli Zucca, or Gnocchi, and for mains Marinated Lamb Chops, Grilled Sea Bass, and Sea Scallops are good choices. And save room for the Italian Style Rice Pudding. You won’t be sorry. Note: they do not take reservations online.
Bar Pitti – Beyonce and JayZ are two of the luminaries that frequent this West Village hot spot. If you go, and nab one of the advantageous outdoor patio tables, you’re bound to see one bold-faced name, especially at lunch. And yes, the basic Tuscan food it good, which is why they go. Try their Antipasto Toscano or Fettunta E Proscuitto. Pastas are rich and delicious. Or go for a Panini – the options are mouth-watering. Note: they accept reservations for parties of four or more and are cash only, seriously.
Da Silvano – Next door to Bar Pitti, and its senior by some twenty years, Da Silvano is the elder sister to its neighbor – a bit more upscale, in decor, menu, and service. Silvano Marchetto opened his eponymous ristorante serving authentic Tuscan cuisine in 1975 and it’s been a hot spot ever since (yes, actors, musicians, artists are frequent customers). They too have a patio for dining in temperate weather. Inside or out, Bruschetta, Carpaccio, Grilled Shrimp, Beets & Endive salad area all good to start. For pasta, go for the Puttanesca, the Bolognese, or any of the daily specials. Then there’s a choice of steak done various ways, a veal chop, Cornish hen, langostines … And remember, one does not put cheese on pasta/risotto with seafood. Should you ask for it, Silvano himself might just come around with a bottle of extra virgin olive oil which he’ll proceed to apply liberally to your dish.
dell’Anima Means “of the soul.” The food is simple and delicious at this West Village favorite. Sit at the bar. The menu is seasonal, so if they’re still available, order Charred octopus with rice beans, chorizo and chicory, or Argula with lemon and shaved parmigiano reggiano to start, and Garganelli with funghi trifolati, lemon and parsley for a main. The space is small and dimly lit, creating a warm, inviting, if occasionally loud, atmosphere.
Morandi Is the Italian outpost of the Keith McNally food empire. Billed as a “rustic Italian trattoria,” the food is simple and flavorful. You can’t go wrong starting with the Fritto misto di pesce (fried calamari, shrimp, and fish) or Carciofi alla guidea (fried artichoke with lemon) or Fave e pecorino (escarole, fava beans, mint, and pecorino). For pastas: Pici al limone and Tagliatelle alla bolognese are excellent. Orata alla griglia (grilled sea bream with lemon oregano oil) and Tagliata di manzo (grilled flank steak) won’t disappoint either. The service is excellent, the atmosphere is lively, and the scene is hip. And it’s always good for a “star sighting” or two.
Sant Ambroeus – Serves traditional Milanese food (the original Sant Ambroeus opened in Milan in 1936) in a casual but elegant setting. I’ve been for both lunch and dinner. The dishes were flavorful and the service impeccable. Just thinking of it now is making me hungry. To start you might like Insalata di Carciofi or Carpaccio di Tonno, and for pasta Pappardelle alla Tirolese or Risotto ai Frutti di Mare. All of the secondi are so good, it’s difficult to choose, but choose the Tagliata (sliced Creekstone dry aged Black Angus sirloin steak with asparagus, fresh chanterelle mushrooms, and a balsamic reduction) and the Branzino (pan-seared Mediterranean sea bass with capers, asparagus, and baby pepper) and you won’t be disappointed. The menu is seasonal, so your options may change. Not to worry. Almost any dish Sant Ambroeus offers will satisfy.
Locanda Verde – This Italian taverna located in the Greenwich Hotel in TriBeCa is the latest offering from Robert DeNiro and his partners. The chef is Andrew Carmellini, previously of A Voce, and the pastry chef is Karen Demasco. The buzz is great decor, great food, great prices … I’ve gotta get there.