Madison Avenue has gotten a new upscale Italian restaurant with the opening of Salumeria Rosi. This block is already overly saturated with Italian restaurants such as Nello, Bar Italia, Sant Ambroeus and the new Italian project from the Sant Ambroeus team and Larry Gagosian coming soon, there would need to be something very special about Salumeria Rosi to make it last in this area. Cesare Casella and Del Posto alum Will Hickox have created a refined Tuscan style menu for the restaurant which seems like a bit of an upgrade from his other Upper West Side location. Actually, the entire restaurant is an upgrade from the Upper West Side location.
The restaurant is designed with the Park Avenue housewives in mind and is set up almost identically to Sant Ambroeus. The front section acts as a cafe where people can order coffee, dessert of perhaps a plate of Salumi from the well known brand Parmacotto. White tablecloths in the sectioned off back room and wallpaper designed as Roman like Frescos create a more refined atmosphere in this Upper East Side location as opposed to the more laid back ambiance of the original West Side restaurant. The clientele is just as chic as the decor, we even spotted Bette Midler dining across the room. While the decor of the restaurant is stunning there was one small problem. It appears that Salumeria Rosi has a fly problem. On both of our visits we were constantly pestered with gnats and small flies to the point where they even ended up in our wine glasses. We were told that this was only a seasonal issue but we’ll be the judge of that come Spring and Summer.
As for the food, shockingly most of it is very good. We say that simply because most Italian restaurants, actually none of the Italian restaurants, on Madison Avenue have really produced food that justified their price tags. The $40 plates of pasta are worth about $20 at the most and the same goes for the food at Sant Ambroeus and Bar Italia. The Salumi platter is an excellent dish to share for about two to three people. The Mortadella if flown in from Italy and is one of the few cuts we have seen without Pistachios in it (for those who have nut allergies). The Oysters with Walnuts, Pancetta and Breadcrumbs were fresh and the breadcrumbs added a new dish on the traditional raw oysters we normally see. The Sgombro con Caponata (Mackerell with Egg Plant) is also a great starter.
The pastas are even better than the appetizers. The Tordelli in a Pork & Beef Ragu is easily the best dish served at the restaurant. The ravioli like pasta is cooked al dente and comes with a ragu that is rich and salty but is balanced by the sweetness of the tomatoes. The Savarin del Parmacotto (risotto) was also excellent as was the Rigatoni with Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella. The entrees are a bit pricier however the Rack of Lamb was moist, savory and generously portioned. The desserts are where Salumeria Rosi slips up. The $14 cookie platter left much to be desired and the Apple Crostata was pretty much forgettable. However the Gianduja (chocolate cake) is excellent and is perhaps the only dessert on the menu worth ordering.
With a full meal for one costing no less than $100 per person after tax and tip, was Salumeria Rosi worth it? Aside from the flies, the ambiance is stunning and the food is easily the best amongst the Italian restaurants on Madison Avenue. While it may not be Sfoglia, Salumeria Rosi is an excellent restaurant that is even worth the trip to the Upper East Side.
Salumeria Rosi Il Ristorante
903 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021
In Clinton Hill, Brooklyn lies a quaint and down to Earth Italian restaurant called Locanda…no not Locanda Verde but Locanda Vini e Olii. Housed in a former 130 year old pharmacy, this Brooklyn eatery comes equipped with rolling ladders and apothecary drawers as well as a full kitchen serving traditional Tuscan food. Normally on weekends the wait to get into the Brooklyn Locanda is very much similar to that of the Manhattan Locanda so reservations are strongly suggested. Once inside you can take a seat at one of the cozy tables and order off the menus that are made of cardboard. The wine list is presented on two wine bottles that are already on the table, one is the house wine list and one is the reserve menu. Of course, we recommend the reserve menu.
The menu really features only traditional unrefined Italian dishes such as an array of small plates like Baccala and Sardines as well as pasta and meat dishes. To start we ordered a few of the small plates, the Pappardelle with Wild Boar Ragu, Tagliatelle with Beef and Pork Ragu, The Grilled Duck Breast and Grilled Piedmontese Beef. The smaller plates were fantastic and a great way to start off the meal (especially the Baccala). The pasta dishes, while good, unfortunetly didn’t please us as much as we had anticipated. The Pappardelle was actually a rather small portion but the ragu was quite good. The best pasta dish on the menu is easily the Tagliatelle. The pasta was cooked well and the portion was quite generous. However, your dinner should stop right at the pasta dishes, there’s no need to go any further on the menu. The grilled duck breast as cold and dry and the beef was basically dry and inedible (we’re pretty sure they used the beef to sand down some of the tables). But the Semolina Cake for dessert gave us a reason to stay after the horrid entrees.
We can sum up the food at Locanda Vini e Olii pretty quickly: only order the small plates, pasta dishes and perhaps a dessert. While the restaurant is intimate and provides a nice atmosphere, the food really isn’t all that good. Sure it will please those who can’t cook at home and want a decent plate of pasta but those looking to be “wowed” perhaps should go to Sfoglia or Sandro’s instead.
A Voce is a Michellin starred modern Italian restaurant located in Gramercy right off of Madison Square Park. Missy Robins the executive chef in this contemporary Italian restaurant that is kind of off the beaten path. While normally the menu at A Voce is on the expensive side (pasta dishes on average cost around $30 and meat dishes range from $25-$40), the restaurant does participate in Restaurant Week which is a great opportunity to get a taste of what A Voce offers at a fraction of the normal price. The restaurant itself is located on an attractive corner overlooking Madison Square Park and while there is an outdoor patio, most guests opt to sit inside the modernly designed restaurant. While the interior is pretty for the most part, I’d recommend getting a booth rather than a table as A Voce uses swivel chairs rather than normal dining chairs which, while visually it does look pleasing, it can be a bit troublesome when you eat.
After Andrew Carmellini‘s departure, I wasn’t quite sure if A Voce would still be as good as it used to be (which is why I decided to try it for Restaurant Week first). The wine list at A Voce was quite large and the restaurant was serving many large format bottles even during lunch. I would recommend the Jean-Luc Columbo Rose but be sure to get a full glass and skip the quartino, especially if you are sharing. To start, I had the Mozzarella and Prosciutto with Stone Fruit and my friend had the Fluke Crudo with Marinated Cucumbers, Chili and Lemon. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much out of the Mozzarella and Prosciutto dish but actually A Voce did do a great job preparing. Four pieces of prosciutto rested on top of the fresh mozzarella and the stone fruit actually added a sweet flavor to the dish. The Fluke Crudo was also a great dish as well. The Fluke was thinly sliced and rested on a bed of cucumber and chili. The light flavors of the fluke and cucumber went well with the slightly spicy chili. Next we both had the Mandilli, which are pretty much, like the menu says, pasta handkerchiefs. with Merluzzo, Toasted Fennel, Capers and Olives. The Mandilli were cooked well but I did find that the olive taste did overpower the dish. I did enjoy the Merluzzo as the fish was a good way to transition from the heavy olives that were finely chopped and sprinkled on top of the pasta. For dessert I had the Semifreddo, basically an almost frozen ice cream or custard dessert, with Lemon Mousse and Blueberries. The semifreddo itself was sweet and the texture was almost like a cake and the inclusion of the lemon mousse made the dish quite refreshing (almost like a palate cleanser).
I would say that A Voce is one of the better options for Restaurant Week. While I wasn’t too impressed with the Mandilli, the Semifreddo and Crudo were excellent. The setting is beautiful and the service is good as well but as of now, I’m not quite sure if I would go back for the normal dinner menu as while I did enjoy my lunch there are a few other places I would much rather spend $30 on a plate of pasta at such as Sfoglia.
On the roof of the relatively new Armani flagship store on 5th Avenue sits a modern Italian restaurant mainly built for the tourists that come in and out of the store. The restaurant itself has its own separate entrance from the store itself but during store hours you can access the restaurant through the store’s elevator. The restaurant’s location within the Armani store looks as if they had a bit of extra space left over and didn’t know what to do with it as it takes up a bit less than half of one floor. However, the restaurant itself is decorated very simply with modern looking black chairs and white tables and a few circular booths scattered throughout the restaurant. Its a very chic and modern decor and matches the rest of the store perfectly. There is, however, a bit of a pretentious vibe given off when you first enter the restaurant by the maître d. Even though the restaurant was half empty during my lunch visit, we still had to wait 10 minutes for a table for two but then again when visiting an upscale Italian restaurant there’s a bit of attitude is to be expected.
The menu features refined Italian dishes that would please any Park Avenue housewife. Of course you have the essentials for any upscale Italian restaurant such as Beef Carpaccio and an array of salads to choose from but what is surprising is the $33 pre-fixe lunch menu. However, since I was having dinner at Sushi Gari later that evening I chose to save my appetite and just get the Bavette Sul Pesce and the Spaghettini. The Bavette consisted of Bavette pasta, similar to linguini, with an array of seafood in a light sauce. The bavette itself was very al dente, though some people do prefer it that way, and the portion size was far too small to justify the $28 price-tag. The sauce was also very oily and left a very greasy feeling in my mouth afterwards. The Spaghettini was similar to the Bavette except it had sea urchin in it as well. This dish was mediocre at best and featured such a small amount of sea urchin that it was laughable.
Since I haven’t heard much about Armani Ristorante I suppose I should not have set my expectations so high. While the space is beautiful, the service is a bit pretentious and the food leaves much to be desired. My suggestion is checking it out once if this is a place you are very interested in or if you really need a nice place to have a quick lunch while shopping on 5th avenue. Frankly the food is not good enough to make this my regular Italian spot. For this price range I’d much rather Sfoglia, Cipriani or even Nello.
Sfoglia is all the way up on 92nd and Lexington in the Upper East Side, but it is worth the trip. Sfoglia, which means an uncut sheet of pasta, is usually visited by locals who live in the area but there is a bit of a bar scene as it gets later into the night. Sfolgia is known for their fresh pastas and excellent, traditional yet refined Italian cooking. The restaurant is pretty small and a reservation at Sfoglia is pretty difficult to come by but once you get in its worth it. The Venetian chandeliers, pasta chart and rolled up dish towels instead of napkins give Sfoglia a very homey feel and make it less pretentious than other Italian restaurants in the area.
Sfoglia has a seasonal menu that changes ever so often. On my visit I had the Pappardelle alla Bolognese and the Gnocchi with Shrimp which was a special as an appetizer. The Pappardelle itself was the freshest pasta I’ve tasted to date. It didn’t stick together like other pastas do and you could immediately tell that the pasta was homemade. The Bolognese sauce was light and didn’t overpower the delicate Papardelle. The gnocchi was cooked to perfection and the shrimps used were fresh. We also had the Muscles which were fantastic as well. As an entree we had the Branzino and the fish of the day which was the Red Snapper. Both fish were cooked well and very light. The snapper had a potato puree on the side that went very well with the fish.
Sfoglia takes traditional Italian dishes and refines them. The result is a phenomenal array of dishes that aren’t heavy like other Italian restaurants yet aren’t too overly fancy that you loose that sense of true Italian food. I loved every dish I had at Sfoglia and would be more than happy to return again in the future.