Tuesday, February 21, 2017

IL GATTOPARDO RESTAURANT: NYC-Review

Contemporary Italian Southern Cuisine- A Midtown Oasis of Culinary Art-Traditional Hospitality



New to us but a neighborhood staple (est. 2001) ...the special midtown Manhattan hideaway,  Il Gattopardo -located in an historic Rockefeller townhouse across the street from MoMa--- is a worthy dining establishment that begs a return visit. ASAP.

Yes, that good.

"SE VOGLIAMO CHE TUTTO RIMANGA COM'È BISOGNA CHE TUTTO CAMBI."
“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” - Tancredi Falconeri, Il Gattopardo
by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, 1958 

(and for cinema fans...the Visonti classic)...printed on the menu-- summarizes this modern trattoria's pasionate'mission' of serving satisfyingly 'simple' dishes of southern Italy-interpreted in the most contemporary sumptuous ways...as the top tiered restaurants do (or should)...allowing the finest ingredients deftly presented in a seasonal menu-to shine through -flavored with subtle yet distinct seasonings and accents.

Additonally-the restaurant's flawless trifecta of food, service and location -not only pleases discerning palates-but also allows diners to leisurely luxuriate in a transporting dining 'experience"-leaving them (us)  full in the best way possible.


 A recent Thursday night finds Il Gattopardo's  cozy/buzzy dining room-an elegant narrow-ish L shaped space- decorated in uncomplicated clean whites, unfussy wicker chairs, quietly elegant gleaming cutlery and china -  filled ...with two to ten patrons- seated in square to accommodating big round tables, stile familiare Italiano.

The crowd-as one would expect, given the locale-includes straight out of work- business suit types -including several relaxing in the charming bar area-located to the immediate left of the entrance-a tv/music free inviting space- for those who relish conversation without the decibels. 

Surprisingly though- for us, anyway -there were also quite a few regular patrons - and tourists from nearby hotels-  attired in lumberjack worthy flannel shirts and rugged hiking boots...seated next to hipster Millenials-and sophisticated GEN X/Boomer fashiony chic-sters - a winning sign that the experience of fine dining is appreciatively ageless.

Clearly though-it's the transporting real food that guarantees regular patrons for the well prepared and served- to perfection morsels, courtesy of veteran Chef Vito Gnazzo-(a co-partner with restaurant veterans Gianfranco and Paula Sorrentino) -and the very welcoming -professional staff- anticipate diners' needs-  at a pace such a finely nuanced pace-that the unhurried two and a half plus hours spent there-  literally zipped by.

To start...


Amuse-Bouche-crisp Sicilian bites-devoured in a NY minute-crispy crunchy deep fried Arancini-rice balls stuffed with chewy peas and cheeese-and Mediterranean leaning sautéed escarole/mushroom -wrapped in a solid but featherweight dough-a tip-off that every morsel would elevate whatever gastronomical perceptions we had of  'typical' Neapolitan cuisine.  A sparkling Prosecco -or a Spumanti-both bubblys-are the ideal accompaniment-smart selections available by the glass. or bottle..from a complete focused wine menu of southern, central, and northern Italian wines mostly ranging in bottle prices from $29-to just under $200...plus a few show-stopping French pours.


hearty fresh bread basket-and crunchy bread sticks-needed to scarf up every last bit 




Grilled Octopus with oven baked fingerling potatoes, celery hearts and Castelvetrano olives-foodie friend deemed this tender octopus dish-perfectly rounded out with salty leaning olives. $20

Grilled Tuna over Controne white bean -friseé salad...highest grade raw tuna-slightly seared-delicately balanced with light vinaigrette dressing-chewy Italian beans...our version of food heaven we could eat every night. $24 Another signature appetizer enjoyed by a few other diners-the beef and veal meatballs wrapped in savoy cabbage leaves with thyme sauce, served over mixed greens $17

Risotto-our opinion-is a must try-and Il Gattopardo delivers in their version-that was one of the specials of the night- simmered in lobster broth, with sweet bits of the aforementioned and greens' fleck-encapsulating the perfectly cooked grains =wonderfully balance of textures and spices....including surprise surprise-hot red peppers that provided a perfect hot pop to this dish.


Another special of the evening-Dover Sole...served fillet ...with escarole+ black olives...a heavenly ensemble of delicate fish enlivened with subtle seasonings-and of course, fresh lemon. $55. Paired with a glass of sweetly acidic
Pinot Grigio Natural Rose’ 2013 Scarbolo $20-a pale pink blend that deftly 'works' with seafood.

Other acclaimed entreés...f juicy poach-like, oven roasted monkfish served with a delicious creamy semolina garnished and crispy fried leeks...worthy of a bread chunk to sop up every last bit...and the restaurant's famous take on the 'humble' homemade staple a traditional Neopolitan meatloaf with chive flecked mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach $29. 
FYI-there is a seasonal organic vegetable plate, gluten free pastas, and cream free soups-accommodating special needs' diets.

I Dolci...
Love to end our meal with a  tour of Italy cheese plate-including Parmigianno Regianno-hard cow's milk aged 24 months,  Pientino-a Tuscan cheese made from sheep' milk, Pecorino Toscano-sheep's milk Tuscan fav, Cacio Cavallo-cow's milk from Calabria, and new to us Raschera Dop-cow's milk from Piedmont. With dried fruits-figs, apricots, apples...and dab of sweet mustard-reminded us more of jelly.
Barolo red wine is ideal choice to accompany an Italian cheese plate composed of bold/soft cheeses. 
Pasteiera ia a Naples' tradition creamy light ricotta cheesecake-ant Easter treat-served year round on this side of the POND-pictured with complimentary homemade hazelnut biscotti. 
WHAT ELSE: A well (value) priced weekend brunch is served the restaurants glorious multi-level atrium...that is also available for private parties.

Final Thoughts: An Il Gattopardo cookbook detailing these Neapolitan creations begs to be written...hint hint.

IL GATTOPARDO 13-15 West 54th Street, NYC
T: 212 246 0412
LUNCH, Mon - Fri, 12 to 3 PM // BRUNCH , Sat - Sun, 11:30 AM to 3 PM // DINNER, Mon - Sat, 5 to 11:30 PM // SUNDAY DINNER, 5 to 10 PM 
Reservations are highly recommended...online or via Open Table

Social Media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter @ilgattopardoNYC