Tag Archive | Italian

El Gato Chimney’s De Rerum Natura at Stephen Romano Gallery

El Gato Chimney Signage
My Black Heart By El Gato Chimney (All Photos By Gail. Click on Any Image to Enlarge for Detail)

El Gato Chimney is a fantastic, Milan-based surrealist whose compelling work I doubt I would have come to know and love so well if it weren’t for the Stephen Romano Gallery, which has lovingly featured El Gato’s work in each of their eclectic group shows.

Lost in Thoughts
Lost in Thoughts

Currently, the Romano Gallery is hosting De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), a show dedicated entirely to this young artist’s exciting work.

The artwork of De Rerum Natura is accompanied by a high quality catalog, which includes several intriguing and extremely insightful essays, one of which is by fellow surrealist Martin Wittfooth. By way of introduction to El Gato Chimney’s enigmatic images, I offer a brief but richly descriptive passage from Martin’s essay:

El Gato Chimney’s paintings are a kind of visual alchemy: a unique witch’s brew or shaman’s potion of mysticism, therianthropy (the mythological ability of human beings to metamorphose into animals by means of shapeshifting), mythological and religious symbolism, and visionary fractals.

Revelation
Revelation

These works echo the technique and compositions of the naturalist painter John James Audubon, while envisioning a psychedelic menagerie summoned on paper from the often-diabolical nether realms of Hieronymus Bosch. Crowned hydras, chimeras, masked birds and crucified crows inhabit a barren world, wherein sacred hearts, disembodied eyes, mysticist dice, skeleton keys and beehives float above or lie upon the landscape.

El Gato Chimney

El Gato Chimney’s imagination implores us to contemplate our collective symbolical archive, while simultaneously offering alternative allegories and personal readings of these devices.

Here are more pictures from the show!

The Charlatan
The Charlatan

The Right Proportion, Guide Me Home
The Right Proportion (Left), Guide Me Home (Right)

El Gato Chimney

El Gato and Fan Admire The Charlatan
At the Opening Reception: El Gato and Writer/Curator Pam Grossman Admire and Discuss The Charlatan

El Gato Chimney’s De Rerum Natura will be on Exhibit Through April 30th, 2015 at Stephen Romano Gallery, Located at 111 Front Street in Dumbo, Brooklyn. Please note that this will be the final snow at this location before Stephen Romano moves to its new, storefront Gallery space at 145 Plymouth Street in Brooklyn!

Speak the Truth
Show Catalog Featuring Cover Illustration of Speak the Truth

Rebirth
Rebirth

Midtown Foodie Find: B & Co.

B and Co NYC
Exterior Photo Courtesy of B & Co. All Other Photos By Anne Raso. Click on any Image to Enlarge.

It was really by accident that we ended up at B & Co. on East 58th Street. Earlier in the day, plans called for us to dine on the lower east side, but electrical problems at that establishment saw our reservation moved to midtown. And what a fortuitous change of plans that turned out to be, because our meal at B & Co set a new bar for delicious food and very fine service in midtown Manhattan.

Honeycomb Mirror Ceiling Detail

B & Co. is a months-old establishment, situated mid-block, directly across the street from FAO Schwartz Flagship store, that features not only a fine restaurant but also a lounge and a private club area – all on separate floors. We sat in the restaurant’s front bar area, where we could enjoy the mesmerizing honeycomb mirror that travels up the wall to the ceiling, while we lost ourselves in the ever-changing, farm-to-table fresh Northern Italian / Mediterranean cuisine.

Let me show you what we ate, and tell you a little bit about each dish, so you will have some good ideas of what to order for when you go there.

Burrata Pugliese

Have you ever had Burrata cheese? If not, you need to try it, because it is just insane. Burrata starts out as a mozzarella ball, to which mozzarella curd scraps are stuffed into the inside of the ball of cheese and topped off with fresh cream. The Burrata Pugliese ($24) pictured above is accompanied by locally farmed beefsteak tomatoes, drizzled with balsamic reduction and extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with shredded fresh basil. It’s a perfect appetizer to share.

Red and Yellow Beet Salad

I never miss a chance to enjoy a beet salad and B&Co’s Barbabietola Red & Yellow Beet Salad ($16), with chunks of Brin d’Amour cheese and extra virgin olive oil, is satisfyingly delicious. It’s a very healthy choice and another great dish to share with a dining companion. And look how beautiful it is!

Risotto Invernale

Look at the huge, tender sweet chunks of Butternut Squash nestled in this dish which is called Risotto Invernale ($40), a Northern Italian specialty that is suitable for vegetarians but oh so decadent and rich tasting. One of the more popular items on the menu, this risotto also features porcini mushroom and black truffle, cheese, cream and truffle oil. It smells as good as it tastes!

Steak and Potatos

For a tasty red meat fix we ordered the Tagliata ($39), grassfed New York Strip Steak which features roasted golden fingerling potatoes and a flavorful Calvados sauce made with Apples, Apple Brandy and Heavy Cream. This dish is usually prepared with bone-in filet mignon, which was sadly unavailable on the night of our visit, but the NY Strip was cooked perfectly, surprisingly tender and juicy.

Broccoli Rabe

We ordered a side of gorgeous Broccoli Rabe ($9) to go with the steak, and it was easily the best broccoli rabe I have ever eaten. Sautéed in extra virgin olive oil and a tiny bit of garlic, proprietor Max Burgio told us that they deliberately use very little garlic in B & Co’s kitchen so that the natural flavors of the food are just enhanced and not overwhelmed.

Imperial Cannolo

And this beautiful thing, (sigh) this is how we ended our meal, with B & Co’s special house made Imperial Cannolo ($12), a delicate, crispy fried pastry shell stuffed with divinely light sweetened Ricotta filling (the key: less sugar) and garnished with fragrant candied Orange Peel, that will ruin you for any other type of traditional cannoli (the plural of cannolo) pastry ever again in your life. It was so huge, the two of us could not even finish it. Seriously, I could talk about this dessert for the rest of my life.

I can’t wait to go back to B & Co. and take all of my Foodie Friends with me. Every dish we ordered was like the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten and the service was just amazing. It may be in what I would call a “Destination neighborhood,” but the trip is totally worth it.

B & Co. is Located at 18 East 58th Street (Between Fifth and Madison) New York, NY 10022. Call (212) 838-3200 for Reservations or visit B and Co NYC Dot Com.

Restaurant Review: Coming Full Circle at Circolo45

Circolo 45 Exterior Shot
This and Interior Photo By Gail. All Food Photos By Anne Raso

Ask a random sampling of Manhattanites if they can tell you the location of Bond Street and most will likely either scratch their heads or offer that it must be somewhere in the Financial District. Because Bond Street is an enchanting enigma of NYC real estate, a kind of Urban Shangri-La, if you will. Stretching for just two short blocks above Houston, nestled between Broadway and Bowery — and still paved with cobblestones from the days when New York City was in its youth – Bond Street offers a mix of unique public art, both definitively modern and gorgeous historic architecture, and best-kept-secret foodie destinations. It’s appropriate then that 45 Bond Street is the address of Circolo45, an intimate Italian Trattoria featuring fresh takes on traditional favorites and exceptional, old world service.

Circolo 45 Interior Shot

Recently renovated just nine months after its initial opening, accents such as pastel-painted walls in the bar area and white-painted brick in the rear dining space, minimalist, line drawn portraits hung  throughout the restaurant, and the variable candlelit “mood lighting” all fit right in with Executive Chef and General Manager Daniele Sicuranza’s vision of Circolo45 as an Italian Retreat with a “simple, yet vibrant” atmosphere. The varied menu’s emphasis on locally sourced ingredients and an extensive offering of homemade pastas echo the themes of simplicity and comfort in a setting that elevates the dining experience.

Tizi Cocktail

We started off our evening with one of Circolo’s specialty cocktails, the Tizi; a rose-colored elixir similar to a Cosmopolitan but with Elderflower syrup added. Delicious! I like my cocktails fruity and potent, and this delivered on both counts.

Eggplant Parmigiana
Eggplant Parmigiana with Tomato Sauce and Basil

Our cocktails put us in a nice, relaxed mood to peruse the impressive menu, which seems to offer a taste of the various regions of Italy to please every palate. The Appetizer section alone was overflowing with dishes I felt excited to try just from reading their descriptions. Agreeing to go with the classics, we chose to split the Meatballs Florentine Style and the Eggplant Parmigiana (both priced at $12.00). The Eggplant Parm, a perfect size for sharing which arrives with a golden cheesy top, is extremely rich and creamy, more so than I’ve tasted with this dish when ordered at other restaurants. I’m told that the mousse-like texture is owed to additional baking time. If you want the taste of eggplant to really stand out rather than be hidden by the flavors of other ingredients, this is the dish for you.

Meatballs
Meatballs Florentine Style with Tomato Sauce

The Meatballs, served in a ramekin with tomato sauce, sliced bread for dipping, and fresh rosemary, have very little binder added, so they are meaty and satisfying. These are also a good sharing size, especially if you want to sample several items from the menu without getting too full before your main course arrives!

Two starter dishes I’d definitely like to try on a future visit are the Arancini (Fried Rice Balls with Ragu, $10) — which are always a comfort-food favorite – and the Vitello Tonnato ($13), featuring cold, sliced Veal served in a Tuna Sauce. I had this dish once before, at Da Silvano on Sixth Avenue back in the nineties, and I’ll never forget it. It would be interesting to discover if Circolo45’s offering could compare with my fond memories.

Spaghetti with Black Truffles
Spaghetti Alla Chitarra Con Tartufo Nero Estivo

From Circolo’s extensive selection of fresh, house made pastas we chose a signature dish of the house, the Spaghetti Alla Chitarra Con Tartufo Nero Estivo: Fresh Egg Spaghetti with Black Summer Truffle ($20). The thick, al-dente cooked noodles are similar in size to Japanese Udon noodles for a hearty bite. This dish is perfectly seasoned and fragrant with truffle oil as well as a generous addition of sliced Black Truffle. We  reflexively asked our server for grated cheese but were advised to just try the dish sans cheese and let the truffle richness prove itself to be flavor perfection on its own. She was right; no cheese was needed.

Other delectable pasta choices include one of my favorites, Traditional Lasagna Alla Bolognese ($13), and the Paccheri Alla Genovese; Pasta served in a Veal Shoulder Ragu, cooked slowly in the oven ($15). I can imagine that the Veal Shoulder Ragu is exceptional, based on the next dish we tried.

Beef Shoulder

Another specialty is the Spezzatino Alla Toscana, Beef Shoulder oven-baked at low temperature served with tender, golden Potatoes, Tomato and Basil ($24). This wonderful dish is comparable to a pot roast or rustic beef stew. The meat is fork-tender and the large chunks of potatoes are cooked perfectly. If you are not sharing this, you will have enough to take home for a second meal (as I did, and it was even more delicious the second time)!

Steak and fish lovers will also find lots of tempting selections on Circolo45’s menu– from an oven-baked, Salt Crusted Branzino for Two ($54) to a reasonably-priced selection of steaks which we understand are prime cuts!

Brussels Sprouts

A generous side of Roasted Brussels Sprouts (all sides are just $5) could easily serve three people. The tender sprouts are roasted using very little olive oil, in case you are counting calories!

Chocolate Souffle

Circolo45’s dessert selections change daily and we let our excellent server surprise us. Giving us enough time for our food to settle a bit, she returned from the kitchen with a gorgeous and feather light Chocolate Souffle ($9.00). Light and crispy on top and just oozing with a rich Valhrona Chocolate center, this souffle is a few cuts above the ubiquitous warm /molten chocolate cake you see on every menu in town. A perfect ending to a rich and satisfying dining experience. We look forward to a return visit!

Circolo45 is located at 45 Bond Street Between Lafayette and Bowery. Hours are Monday to Sunday, 5:30 – 10:30 PM. Please Call 212-375-0323 for Reservations. Visit their Website at Circolo 45 Dot Com.

AOL Presents Now Eat This: Italy, Cooking with Rocco Dispirito!

Rocco Books
All Photos By Gail

When you hear the name Rocco Dispirito, you may at first think, “What a hottie” — amiright? But also, Rocco is a skilled and charismatic Celebrity Chef who has hosted and starred in many TV shows (Rocco’s Dinner Party, how fun was that?) as well as being a restaurateur and author of many best-selling books on food and cooking. Rocco Dispirito!

Rocco Dispirito
How Cute Is This Guy?

If you have been following his career for as many years as I have, you may recall that Rocco, while consistently adorable, was not always as lean and trim and he is now. He got into shape by learning to cook in the same manner as his Italian ancestors: and not just by incorporating fresh, local ingredients and creating preparation techniques which reduce the use of traditional fats and carbs, but also by adopting a more leisurely-paced approach when it comes to the experience of social eating.

Tuna Crudo
Tuna Crudo, One of Rocco’s Low Calorie Yet Gourmet Specialities

Rocco’s latest New York Times best-seller, Now Eat This! Italian, takes on all of your favorite Italian food recipes by reducing them calorically while keeping the very fresh and authentic flavor. In fact, most of these dishes come in at 350 calories and under without sacrificing deliciousness.

AOL Sign

In the book’s accompanying video series, which debuted on AOL.com earlier this month, DiSpirito travels to various regions in Italy to learn from the foremost Italian food experts, real Italian Moms! The show is a lot of fun and also lets you see the beauty of the Italian countryside.

Kitchen
International Culinary Center Test Kitchen

Last evening, AOL hosted a hands-on cooking event with Rocco at The International Culinary Center for a select number of lucky bloggers and contest winners, where we all had the chance to cook a meal with Rocco and then sit down together to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Rocco lead the class with his step-by-step recipes and stories behind each dish and he was very patient with those of us who are challenged even by slicing a tomato (raises hand). It was a great time and I learned that making lovely homemade Italian food does not have to be intimidating at all.

Here’s what was on the menu:
Caprese Salad
Caprese Salad

Pasta with Clams
Pasta with Clams

Roasted Chicken
Roasted Chicken with Zucchini

Rocco Making Dessert

Rocco was kind enough to make the evening’s dessert – a fresh Strawberry Italian Ice – for us tableside so we could enjoy our after dinner drinks. This quick and simple frozen dessert is basically just fresh berries (I suppose any fruit could be swapped out if Strawberries are not your thing), ice and the same thickening agent used in the faux olive oil salad dressing. Sweet and refereshing!

Strawberry Granita
Strawberry Italian Ice

Proseco
After Dinner Proseco

Rocco Signed Book

Because Rocco is so awesome, he took the time to pose for photos with every single person at the event and also gave each of us a personally signed copy of his book, so that we could cook his recipes at home. The first episode in the Now Eat This: Italy! series, in which Rocco makes Caprese salad after visiting the actual cheese makers, can be enjoyed at This Link. Thanks again to Rocco and AOL for a very fun evening!

Cooking With Gail Presents: Single Lady’s Pasta Night

Del Grosso Garlic Pasta Sauce

Hello and welcome to the second installment of Cooking with Gail: the series that is all about me making a meal from whatever I can find in my house. This week, I was very busy making the scene and had no time to grocery shop. So, Friday evening found me at home, famished and looking through my pantry for foods I could combine into some kind of tasty meal without having run out to the store or resort to ordering in.

Fortunately, I had a new jar of La Famiglia DelGrosso pasta sauce, specifically Aunt Cindy’s Roasted Garlic Gala (check out their awesome website and you can see that each sauce variety is named for a family member, cute)! When you open the jar of this sauce and have a little taste, it tastes like a fresh tomato sauce with a bunch of good stuff in it, which is what I like. I really do not care for those brands of jarred sauces that have so much corn syrup in them that they taste like candy (makes a face). No, thank you. Here are the ingredients in this fine sauce: Imported Whole Italian Plum Tomatoes, Crushed Tomatoes, Imported Olive Oil, Fresh Onions, Roasted Garlic, Sea Salt, Basil, Natural Garlic Flavoring, Black Pepper and Parsley. No sugar added! And you can even see the little chunks of garlic right through the jar! It is like sauce you would make in your home if you were not lazy, like me.

Of course I had some spaghetti pasta at the ready, but needed cheese to top the dish, and I was out of the cheese I normally would add to pasta. What to do? Well, as luck would have it, I also had in the fridge a newly acquired package of Emmi Gruyere Cheese.

Emmi Guyere Cheese

You might recall that I wrote about Emmi Cheese Fondue a while back, which is when I became a fan. Gruyere cheese is really a kind of Swiss cheese, which one does not normally associate with red sauce pasta dishes. But since Gruyere is also hard cheese with properties similar to Parmesan, I figured it would grate up well, and I was right. The slightly salty, nutty flavor also went really well with garlic in the sauce, and it melted nicely on top of the hot pasta. Very delicious! Here is a photo of the finished dish.

Pasta with Sauce and Cheese

I’m not suggesting that everybody is going to get behind putting Gruyere cheese on their pasta, but I would encourage you to step outside the box and get a little bit creative when you are trying to make dinner with what you have on hand. Emmi Cheese is a great product which paired harmoniously with the DelGrosso sauce in this case. I recommended both products be kept on hand in your pantry or fridge for all culinary emergencies, or just for everyday use!

Bob Dylan Paper Dress

 Bob Dylan Dress
Model wearing Italian-designed Bob Dylan Trapeze Dress circa 1967 (Image Source)

The Bob Dylan Paper Dress: It was a thing.

Bob Dylan Dress at MOMA

Bob Dylan Dress on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Photographed by Gail on July 4th, 2016.

Maurizio Cattelan’s All Retrospective at the Guggenheim

It was a few weeks ago now, back on November 11, 2011, that I had my first in person experience with Italian-born artist Maurizio Cattelan’s most unusual retrospective exhibit, All, when I visited the Guggenheim that Friday evening for a live performance by the very excellent pop band, MGMT. The band performed a tight, 45 minutes set of mostly instrumental new material specifically inspired by the 128 separate works now suspended from the ceiling oculus of the museum’s rotunda. The songs fell very much within the surf-psychedelia vein of MGMT’s well-loved sound with a bit of a soundtrack vibe befitting the evening’s experiencing in general. Also, gee whiz, but what a spectacularly hallucination-inducing light show they had! I’m still having flashbacks. Music! Art!

The following week I had to pay another visit to the museum to take in All once again, because when I was there for the MGMT show I had a beer in my hand and the Art Nazis (guards) wouldn’t let me go up past the second ramp with a beer. And you really do need to trek all the way to the top of the ramp to fully experience the innumerable subtle nuances of this exhibit, which literally reveals itself further and further at every turn. The time lapse video above shows the installation process by the museum staff, which will answer your most pressing questions about “just how they got that stuff up there.” See it while you can.

Maurizio Cattelan’s All is on Exhibit until January 22, 2012 at the Guggenheim, Located at Fifth Avenue and 89th Street. Museum hours are extended to 7:45 PM on Monday and Tuesday nights (from 5:45 PM on other days) from December 6, 2011 to January 17, 2012. More information is available at This Link.

Click on This Image to Enlarge

Eolo: Contemporary Sicilian Fare in the Heart of Chelsea

As the story goes, the name Eolo is Italian for Aeolus, ruler of the wind. According to Greek mythology, Eolo lived on a small, volcanic island off the coast of Sicily. He gave Odysseus a wine bag filled with wind to speed his historic voyage home. Nearly there, Odysseus’s curious crew opened the bag, the winds escaped and their ship was pulled back to the Sicilian archipelago. Located in a neighborhood where restaurants can come and go in a matter of months, Eolo Sicilia a Tavola, a Sicilian-inspired Bistro now moving into its second year, is Chef Melissa Muller Daka’s love letter to the region of Sicily. What distinguishes Eolo from other neighborhood trattorias is Chef Melissa’s playful experimentation with tradition that still keeps her dishes in the realm of the familiar.

Chef Melissa Muller Daka

The Appetizer menu is varied and eclectic, featuring plenty of opportunity to be adventurous with your palate. From the Plates for Sharing that includes Crostini di lu Iornu (Grilled Bread with various toppings changing daily, Priced Accordingly) Mini Rice Balls (Various fillings changing daily, Priced Accordingly), Selections of Cold Vegetable Antipastos ($5, $13 and $25) to the Zuppa di Cuccuzza (Pureed Pumpkin Soup, $8), Purpetti ala Giuggiulena (Seared Lamb & Beef Meatballs with cauliflower, onions & sesame seed cream, $13) Purpu cu Ciciri (Seared octopus with lentils, mint, potatoes & cherry tomatoes, $14), and on to unique salads like the ‘Nsalata di Pira (Bosc Pear stuffed with mascarpone & gorgonzola with mixed lettuces and toasted pumpkins seeds, $14), you can step out of your culinary comfort zone with the confidence that Chef Melissa’s inspired ingredient pairings will result something delicious.

All Food Photos By Anne Raso

We quickly devoured the daily special Foccacia, Sfincione ($6) topped with tomato sauce, fontina cheese, radicchio and sliced fresh mushrooms. This foccacia was tender and delicious with generous toppings and crispness to the crust which gave it the presentation of a perfectly sized appetizer pizza.

Being big fans of the Beet, we were excited by the colorful ‘Nsalata Grigliata (Grilled Salad) with Radicchio & Arugula, roasted beets, grilled corn & asparagus, herbed yogurt cheese and grilled bread ($14). We had, however, forgotten that radicchio – while quite lovely – can be a bitter green, and probably should have asked for a bit of additional dressing on the side to curb that bitterness.

Pastas : (L to R) Ravioli, Cavatelli, Spaghetti

House made pasta is a restaurant specialty and, again, some ingredients can be a bit off the beaten path of what you might find in the average kitchen. Since all pastas are available in half or full order, we decided to indulge in half orders of several tempting choices. Feeling adventurous, we first opted for a special pasta of the day, Spachetti d’Ortica cu Melanzone ($12/$24)– spaghetti of stinging nettle, (a flowering plant) which gives the pasta a mild herb flavor – dressed with pesto, fresh eggplant, tomato and ricotta. The Ravioli di Eolo (stuffed with mascarpone & fontina cheese, topped with bold broccoli rabe and ground spicy lamb sausage, $12) was a hearty contrast to the more delicately-flavored spaghetti,  and the Cavatieddi Agrodulci (Cavatelli pasta with a flavorful cauliflower ragu, sweet caramelized onions, currants, toasted pine nuts and parmigiano, $12) was our favorite of the three.

If you are a regular reader of our restaurant adventures, then you know that we always like to order a steak as a benchmark of how a kitchen handles a popular, non-regional dish. Eolo’s Carni cu Pepperonata (Hangar Steak drizzled with garlic, lemon and herb extra virgin olive oil, ($27) was a serious pleasure with its zesty accompaniment of grilled mixed peppers and decadently crispy green olive potato gallete. The Potato Gallette, which is amazing, is also available as a side dish ($7).

Click the Pink Link Below to Read More of This Review and See Photos of What We Had for Dessert!

Continue reading

Donatella Offers Gourmet Pizza and Fine Italian Dining in Chelsea!


From The Golden Oven Comes What Could Be NYC’s Best Pizza  (All Photos By Anne Raso – Click on Any Image to Enlarge)

Italian food is a cuisine for which New York City is deservedly famous. From the upper west side to Little Italy, there is certainly no shortage of Italian dining establishments to frequent. But if you’re looking for one restaurant offering an updated take on tradition that can also satisfy the diverse cravings of every member of your party – whether it be for pizza, pasta, meat or fish you might want to check out Donatella, located right in the heart of Chelsea, because this place is really something special.  Proprietor Donatella Arpaia (formerly of David Burke & Donatella fame) has created a down-to-earth yet classy culinary experience where the wood-fired pizzas are joined by more-formal fare, all served in a modern, well-lit and highly inviting space.

The menu at Donatella is pleasantly varied without becoming overwhelming. You can exquisitely customize your meal by choosing what piques your interest from a broad selection of courses ranging from Bruschette ($4, $10, or a trio for $12), Meats & Cheeses ($8-10), Salads ($10–13), Fried Appetizers ($8, $9 and $12), Antipasti ($12, $13 and $15) plus Pizzas ($10 – $21), Pasta ($15 – 18), Meat  or Fish ($25/MP), Sides ($4, $7) and Desserts ($9). No matter how you choose to build your feast, you will not leave hungry!

Having brought along our heartiest appetites, we started our evening with the Chopped Vegetable Salad (above, $13.00) – generously portioned for sharing – featuring a selection of seasonal vegetables  such as crisp red cabbage, slivers of endive, crunchy snap peas, carrots, cauliflower (parboiled to a tender crispness) red and golden beets and halved cherry tomatoes in a light but slightly creamy  vinaigrette dressing. We also enjoyed the Mesclun Salad with Candied Walnuts and Pecorino ($10).

Next up was the super tasty Arancini ($9): a trio of deep-fried rice balls stuffed with fresh mozzarella, sausage and peas – crispy on the outside with no trace of greasiness, and so tempting we wolfed it down before it even had the chance to pose for a photograph!

 Pizza Polpette  – So Good!

You only need to get one look at the gilt-tiled, wood burning pizza oven which dominates the open kitchen at the rear  of the restaurant to understand that Donatella’s specialty is their pizza: cooked at 700 degrees to create a pizza baked in the authentic Neapolitan tradition. Our selection for the evening was the Pizza Polpette ($17), topped with caciocavallo cheese (a southern Italian cheese similar to provolone), fresh basil, tomato and Donatella’s famous veal meatballs. After only several bites, my dining companion and I both agreed that this thin crust pie was arguably the most delicious pizza we had ever eaten. As promised, the crust was slightly charred and chewy-crisp and the meatballs were light, succulent and mouthwatering. If you chose to forgo meatballs on your pizza in favor of another topping, I’d suggest ordering the Antipasti of Polpette Di Vitello ($18) because you really should not leave without having tried them. They are so good!

For our pasta course, it was no contest to decide on the day’s special: Homemade Cavatelli in a pea pesto sauce (no basil!) with tiny chunks of crispy, thick-cut pancetta, sweet peas, and Parmesan cheese. Pea pesto was definitely something new for me and I enjoyed its lighter, creamier texture  (easy on the olive oil) while the pancetta added a delightful saltiness to the dish. The cavatelli is served al dente, so if you prefer your pasta softer, mention that when placing your order.

Pronounced “Swag-a-tell”

Unwisely, we had left no room in our tummies for dessert, but that does not mean we didn’t engorge ourselves further with two of the menu’s sweet selections. My dining companion had spotted one of her favorite Italian pastry dishes, which she identified as Sfogliatelle Riccia, at a neighboring table and insisted we order one to share. To our great delight the Sfog, as she called it, arrived warm from the oven. This classic Italian dessert consists of multiple layers of flakey pastry stuffed with fresh, orange-infused ricotta cheese filling. It was unlike anything I’ve tasted and absolutely delicious. Highly  recommended!

The Bittersweet Chocolate Parfait: a layered dessert consisting of bittersweet Valrhona chocolate pudding resting atop fresh raspberries in gelee, then topped with a mascarpone cream and thin layer of  burnt sugar, similar to that found on a crème brulee, was very rich but not overly sweet.

Bittersweet Chocolate Parfait

While Donatella is a great “Date Spot” and a fun place for just catching up over dinner with a friend, I’d recommend you try to go with a group of three or more so you can order many different dishes and then share, because here the rule seems to be “If Some is Good, More is Better!”

Donatella is Located at 184 Eighth Ave. (Between 19th & 20th Streets), New York, NY. Phone (212) 493-5150 for Reservations!