My three best meals in New York last week were all Italian, and one of them will likely remain on top of my list as The Most Outstanding Meal of the Year, regardless of what follows.
Is there a better cuisine than Italian?
Is there a better city in North America in which to find sublime examples of the Mother Kitchen?
My three top restaurants are listed below alphabetically, which also happens to be, by coincidence, their order of ranking.
For some reason, friends and readers extrapolate and think that as Napaman is knowledgeable about where to dine, and what to do, in Napa Valley, he’ll know, too, where to dine in other destinations. Which is why I’ve penned this short profile of my Three Best Dining Experiences in NYC, because everyone is asking me for them.
So go ahead... copy... paste... drool... and ultimately enjoy!
#1. Del Posto
Chef Mario Battali’s single best restaurant anywhere. Rated 1-star by Michelin, but on napaman’s scorecard, this is a solid 4-star dining experience, and the best place in America at which to have lunch. Ours lasted 4 hours and was a thrill-a-minute series of courses complemented by paired wines, immaculately selected by head sommelier Massimiliano Giovannoni.
I will be shocked if we have a better dining experience in the coming year. How do you improve upon perfection?
Overseeing our dining needs was Elisabetta Riccardi, who made us feel at home, and who carefully guided us through menu options.
Highlights of the lunch
A cauliflower veloute that will forever change the way I think of the ubiquitous vegetable.
A captivating salad with unusual greens, which appear to have been plucked out of a garden minutes before being served. How else could they taste so fresh? It is tossed with a black truffle vinaigrette that so commands our attention that we’re inclined to ask for a steak on which we might nap this compelling, earthy, aromatic vinaigrette.
Head sommelier Massimiliano Giovannoni pours a single glass of wine using a soon-to-be-released-to-the-public wine device called Coravin, which enables one to draw wine from an, unopened bottle! The 2008 Damijan Malvasia, which Massimiliano poured for us, was sensational.
Lobster salad with meaty, gigantic beans; just the thought of having fresh, tender chunks of this seameat , served with my favorite beans excites my palate!
Cacciucco all Livornese, the traditional fish soup of Livorno. What cioppino is to San Francisco, or bouillabaisse is to southern France. Only better, if you have it at Del Posto.
Fact: There were more glasses on our table than you’d find in a Riedel glass showroom!
#2. Il Buco Alimentari
I have now eaten four times at this sensational restaurant, owned by Donna Lennard, and have never had a disappointing dinner. I am giddy for two days before dining here, excited by the anticipation of what joys my mouth will have.
New York magazine describes this as being one of the Top Ten Restaurants in New York. It is.
If you meet Maggie, the capable, able, talented hostess, say napaman sent you; she’s totally professional and keeps her calm even when, on a weekend night, the place is packed like a subway car at rush hour.
Il Buco Alimentari is home of the single greatest Negroni I have ever tasted. It’s superb when made by any barman here, but particularly memorable when Melissa makes it.
The secret ingredients include a local gin (Breuckelen Gin), Cocchi (Italy’s least understood -- and best! -- sweet vermouth), and a dash of bitters. And of course, Campari.
(Stay tuned to napaman.com; in coming weeks, after I perfect the Negroni at home, I will share the recipe... and you can save the airfare to NY to order one at Il Buco Alimentari. On the other hand, I’d STILL fly to New York just for one of Il Buco Alimentari’s Negronis!)
Be sure to order lattuga, a salad of winter chicories, white anchovies, marconna almonds and red radish. Note in the margin of my dining notebook: “This salad scores 12 out of 10!”
Don’t miss: grilled sausage, served on a bed of Umbrian lentils, tweaked with roasted cipolline onions and given some weight with a deep aftertaste of sage.
Another winner is lasagnette, a house-made noodle tossed with a classic Bolognese ragu; the meaty flavors are lifted by Parmigiano and black pepper. You want perfection on a plate? This dish has it.
Another cold-winter must: Slow-roasted short ribs. Served with Castelvetrano olives, celery, walnuts and – catch this! – horseradish. Richer than Donald Trump. And more appealing.
Did I say deeelicious?
The primary sensory highlights at L’Artusi: it’s dark (as the photo above attests), it’s loud, and it’s fucking delicious.
One young, trendoid diner we know describes this noisy, jam-packed, Italian restaurant as his favorite in all of Manhattan. One taste of the pastas and we fully understand why.
Don’t miss the arancini (fried risotto balls), served with a tongue-clacking tomato sauce.
Chicories tossed with a sensational Parmesan, lemon and anchovy dressing earned three exclamations in my notebook and the added comment: “Worth flying to New York just for this dish!”
Ravioli stuffed with autumn squash, dressed with a sage-brown butter sauce; your mouth will sing The Battle Hymn of the Pasta Republic.
Garganelli with a mushroom ragu, tumbled with a ricotta salata. The best single dish of the night. We thought about ordering a second one it was so good, but knowing what desserts might follow, we opted for prudence over pig-outery.
If you’re going:
Del Posto, 85 10th Avenue, NYC. Tel: 212-497-8090
Il Buco Alimentari, 53 Great Jones St., NYC. Tel: 212-837-2622
L’Artusi, 228 West 10th St., NYC. Tel: 212-255-5757