Arrivederci, ramen and bibimbap — it’s celebrazione season for Italian food lovers. A half-dozen marvelous new and new-ish restaurants are re-energizing New Yorkers’ favorite cuisine.
This fresh crop isn’t obsessed with red sauce or overworked Tuscan recipes. Instead, it reflects influences from up and down the Boot between Italy’s Alpine and near-North African extremities. Although some of the places claim inspiration from one particular region, they’re mostly pan-Italian — a good thing unless you’re a grinch about “authenticity.”
A note: These market-attuned menus change more than most, so don’t be shocked if dishes mentioned here aren’t there when you go. But either way, you’ll mangia bene.
Who knew that timid Upper East Side tastes could tolerate so much pleasure! At this elegant corner spot, where images of silent film star Rudolph Valentino festoon the walls, executive chef Matteo Limoli’s hearty, richly conceived Italian classics almost make you wistful for winter. His menu focuses on central- and northern-Italian dishes, not unlike at owner Antonio Sinese’s restaurant in Milan. The osso bucco risotto ($36) was better than any I’ve had in Italy, and artfully textured pastas — including cavatelli with octopus Genovese ragout and crackling breadcrumbs ($25) — recall Michael White’s best work at Marea. 1347 Second Ave.; 212-380-8164
This multiroom extravaganza — a collaboration between TAO Group and Francesco Panella, the man behind Williamsburg’s hot Antica Pesa — can be as ferociously loud as the name suggests. But the David Rockwell-designed space is also remarkably grown-up, with its warm glow, cozy booths and striped leather banquettes inspired by vintage Ferrari upholstery. Start things off with gnocco fritto ($16), a whirl of fried dough with pistachio mortadella and a parmigiano-reggiano “cloud.” My favorite pasta is the irresistible casarecce alla Luciana ($28) — tactile, twisted noodles rich with octopus, tomatoes, olives and capers. A salt-crusted, market-price sea bass flamed tableside (“mostly for presentation,” they admit) sometimes emerges dry, but the spectacle’s as much fun to watch as the lively, international crowd. At the Moxy Chelsea Hotel, 105 W. 28th St.; (212) 888-1092
Some of the best homemade pastas in town flow from the open kitchen at this convincingly rustic, Piedmont-inspired Crown Heights spot. James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing” barely dents the illusion.
Owner Alessandro Trezza chooses ingredients with sustainability in mind. Everything’s prepared with loving detail: a sparkling salad of arugula is topped with multicolor heirloom tomatoes, crisp, thin peach slices and crackling sliced almonds ($14). Tagliatelle with braised venison ragu ($24) is a house pride, but don’t miss properly cream-free, cheesy-eggy tonnarelli pasta carbonara with braised guanciale ($19). A grilled octopus tentacle ($18) sported tongue-tickling suckers and super-tender flesh within.
You’d better love natural wines — “always the answer,” a sign claims — because they have 100 of them. If they’re not your cup of booze, there’s a long list of Italian vermouths and vermouth-based cocktails. 858 Bergen St., Prospect Heights; (718) 484-3944
It’s worth coping with the racket and cramped quarters for chef Stefano Secchi’s sinfully delicious Emilia-Romagna creations. Pasta choices are the menu’s heart, and they can be devoured in a $90, nine-course tasting that’s filling enough to fell you by the fifth item. They’re all meticulously al dente and sensuously composed, like uovo raviolo ($24 a la carte) stuffed with egg yolk and surrounded by morel mushrooms and black truffles. But other mains hold their own, including a luscious sea bass filet ($28) on a pillow of fagiolini, peas and black garlic zabaglione. 27 E. 20th St.; (646) 692-9090
10 Corso Como
At last, a stylish, contemporary Italian restaurant in the South Street Seaport/FiDi area. It’s partly swallowed up by the giant Corso Como design store, but the gleaming modern setting — complete with big round booths, ideal for lingering over a lengthy feast — pops first-timers’ eyes. Chef Jordan Frosolone’s menu isn’t as consistent as it might be, but its high aspirations and frequent successes are a miracle amid the nabe’s mostly old-school pasta warhorses. A thrilling, saffron- and Parmigiano-rich risotto Milanese is a remarkable bargain at $19. Other standouts include killer pork loin ($38) and bone-in beef rib-eye ($58). Seaport tourists hoping for Italian-American 101 might be disappointed — but New Yorkers will be thrilled. 200 Front St.; (212) 265-9500
Executive chef Jonathan Benno’s pricey, prix-fixe ($105-to-$155 for three to five courses) jewel-box restaurant is technically Mediterranean. But the Italian spirit infuses the menu’s French and modern-American dishes and unabashedly blossoms in the pasta category.
Benno sends ordinarily pedestrian lobster fra diavolo to finishing school, combining it in a simplified presentation with the curled shell pasta called lumache. Meat-based choices are just as fine. Nubbly, gnocchi-like malloreddus are ideal vehicles for rugged braised lamb, San Marzano tomatoes and Sicilian oregano. The luxurious, comfortable dining room proves that “fine dining” isn’t dead — it’s just done without tablecloths. Thanks to the elegance of Benno’s cooking, you won’t notice they’re not there. At the Evelyn Hotel, 7 E. 27th St.; (212) 451-9557
Source: Read Full Article