Who doesn’t love Italian food? I can’t think of one person. Pizza, pasta, risottos, sauces, cheeses, I personally love it all. Here in New York we have so, so many good Italian restaurants of course, but after all these years in the Big Apple, I have to admit that I am a little spoiled. Not only have I learned to make some killer Italian dishes, but I have been to the best of the best restaurants, so please don’t come at me with mediocre food. If you know me, then you know I do my (extensive) research, and I pick restaurants that 99 of 100 times do not disappoint. So I went on a hunt for amazing Italian food, and I hit gold, the restaurants below were absolutely exceptional.
Are you kidding me? I can’t say enough about this restaurant. It has instantly turned into one of my favorite spots here in New York City. I originally tried to go to a restaurant in the area, just to find out that it was closed for a private event. So I checked my (very long) list of restaurants I wanted to try, and Rezdôra was close by. They do have a Michelin Star, and three stars from the New York Times, so not having reservations was an iffy situation. But with a little patience and time, we got seats at the bar. The atmosphere is so festive and inviting, warm, cozy, all that good stuff you expect from an Italian restaurant in New York. Chef Stefano Secchi and partner David Switzer bring us amazing dishes à la Emilia Romagna, and I’m cosindering moving in, because I could have their food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
At our dinner (of course I was with my side kick Sasha) we focused on appetizers and pasta. We started with Fett’Unta (roasted bread with Extra Virgin Olive Oil), which was crispy and flavorful. Our appetizers were Burrata with Prosciutto di Parma, and it turned out the be the freshest, most delicous Prosciutto I ever had, it was so good, and don’t get me started on the Burrata. Next was Gnocco Fritto, which is hollow fried dough with more (!) Prosciutto on top. Heavenly. Our pasta of choice were: Uno Raviolo de Nino Bergese, which is one big Raviolo with ricotta, egg yolk, chantrelles, Mais and black truffles. My choice was Gramigna Giallo e Verde, a pasta with slow braised sausage ragu “in Bianco”, and it was hands down the best pasta I ever had. We were lucky enough to sit next to a wonderful young gentleman, who was just as enamored as we were, and he let us try some of his pasta (he ordered a few plates!), so I can vouch for the fact that the Anolini di Parma (meat filled ravioli-like pasta in a parmigiano sauce) are just as outstanding. Now I’m not going to lie, these portions are pretty small, being that they’re supposed to be part two of a three course dinner, but I honestly didn’t care, they were amazing, worth every penny, and we not only left full, but swooning and vowing to return.
When Chef Tom Colicchio opens a restaurant in New York, you better believe I’ll be there. I’ve been to all of his restaurants in this city, so when he opened Vallata, I was there as soon as I could. As the Head Judge on Bravo’s show Top Chef, I trust his art, his pallet, his cooking. I have been to so many restaurants by Top Chef winners and contestants, and I have never been disappointed. So, for sure, he knows good food. This is his first Italian restaurant, and according to the website, the dishes are based on a year of his home cooking (I am assuming during the Covid closings), and yeah, I could move in there too! If that’s home cooking, I need to live there.
We started the evening with an order of Focaccia with grapes baked into it, accompanied by Pecorino. Wow. I never tried anything like it, it was so good. Next was an order of Amatriciana Arancini, fried and delicious, the sauce had a little kick, we loved it. Our first pasta was Ricotta Cavatelli with Braised Oxtail, Pine Nuts and Raisins. I promise you that it is hard to surprise me, I sometimes think I have tried it all, but then someone throws raisins in your pasta, and I’m like no way. But then it not only works, but it’s friggin delicous, and your culinary world just got a little bigger. We then had the Veal and Ricotta Meatballs with Tomato sauce and grilled bread, which were so soft and tender, a step above even your mom’s meat balls. Homy and yet elegant. We finished with the Braised Chicken with Tomato and Peppers, which (to me) was almost like an Italian Version on Ropa Vièja, just with Chicken instead of beef. Outstanding. Just really so good. We left stuffed like turkeys, and very happy campers.
I mean, word gets around. I heard Locanda Verde was, in part, owned by Robert De Niro, so that got my attention, because: of course. But taking a deeper look into the restaurant, it sounded like a spot I needed to try, no matter who owned it! And so I did. Chef and co-owner Andrew Carmellini and Chef de Cuisine Kevin Woods are responsible for all the goodness coming out of the kitchen, and we’re so grateful for it! The place itself is spacious and romantic, bustling, upbeat and honestly happy. I immediately congratulated myself on my decision on dining here. It feels like a treat before you even sit down.
Did we order everything on the menu? No, but pretty darn close to it. Obviously we had to start with Focaccia, this one accompanied by tomato, mozzarella and Sicilian oregano. It was a round little loaf, and the feeling of a treat just kept intensifying. Burrata anyone? Yes please, with heirloom tomatoes, crispy garlic and rustic croutons. I never tried it like this, it was amazing, and my daughter and I may or may not have engaged in a fight of forks while digging for the Burrata. Just for kicks we ordered some roasted potatoes, which were so flavorful and crispy. Sasha chose the Mezze Rigatoni with lamb bolognese, sheep’s milk ricotta and mint. I am extremely picky when it comes to bolognese, and this one was top notch, the lamb was tender and tasty. I ordered “My Grandmother’s Ravioli”, a recipe of the chef’s actual grandmother, straight from Italy. It truly tasted like I was invited to someone’s home, eating homemade pasta and sauce, no bells or whistles, just comfy, delicious and yet masterful. Locanda Verde was a win on all levels.