Del Posto, NYC 2
February 21, 2011
There is a lot of controversy about Del Posto, which has ambitions to be the best “Italian” restaurant in New York. Two years ago Michelin took away its second star and has not reinstated it. Last September Sam Sifton raised its New York Times rating to the highest, four stars, the first Italian restaurant with this status in over thirty years. In Zagat seven other Italian restaurants have higher ratings. So Linda and I were curious when we went to Del Posto for dinner with Roan on February 6, 2011.
The dining room is very imposing, sedate and not particularly Italian. It is more like an establishment club, complete with a good piano player. The light level is very low. I took photos, but they are blurry. The food is not very photogenic, so I have skipped the photos here. Imagine a sausage slice on a bed of lentils, a mound of fried calamari or a plate of stewed lamb chunks. They can taste much better than they look.
A tray of hors d’oeuvres arrived right away: a cup of stracciatella, or Italian egg drop soup, with salt on the rim; saffron risotto balls; mortadella espuma in puff pastry buns. All three were very good.
I perused the large list of Italian wines. The genial and informative sommelière convinced me to try the 2006 Bastianich Colli Orientali di Friuli Tokay Plus. It has 10% late harvest grapes which give it a slightly sweet spiciness. It has a good long finish. Excellent.
The menu has ten choices each in Antipasti, Primi, Secondi and Dolci. There is a seven-course Menu Tradizionale for $125. We chose the five-course $95 Menu del Posto in which the table chooses two pastas to share and makes individual choices for the antipasto, main course and dessert. For our red wine the sommelière selected a 2004 Il Macchione Vino Nobile de Montepulciano after our first choice was not available. Very good.
A basket with three breads and pots of butter and lardo alongside arrived.
Linda’s starter was Fresh Fried CALAMARI with Spicy Capers. The squid were hot, fresh and nicely done. The sauce was overly spicy and she skipped it. Roan began with VONGOLE Marinate with Fried Roman Artichokes & Minted Farro Dressing. Small clams surrounded three fried artichoke hearts. Very good. My starter was Del Posto ZAMPONE with Lentil Vinaigrette & Salsa Verde. Zamponi are traditional in Italy for the New Year. Spicy sausage meat is prepared, stuffed into boned pig’s trotters and slowly cooked. Here a slice was served on a bed on lentils. Nice.
Our first shared pasta was Pumpkin CAPPELLACCI with Brown Butter and Sage. Pumpkin purée was inside folded pasta envelopes. The brown butter and sage sauce was very good. The second shared pasta was Del Posto AGNOLOTTI dal Plin with Lambrusco Glassato. When we placed our order, the captain told us that the Lambrusco glaze would be interesting and not cloying, but it was.
Linda’s main course was Grilled PORK ode to Emilia-Romagna with Sunchoke Crema & Aceto Conserva. There was a very good base of a Jerusalem artichoke cream, topped by a fruit conserve and a crispy piece of pork loin topped with sesame seeds and slices of bacon. A grilled pork rib with was served on a side plate. Roan and I had the Slow Baked LAMB alla Puttanesca & Garlic Tatsoi. This was very good; the lamb was tender; its flavor enhanced by the garlicky Chinese tatsoi greens, a cross-cultural ingredient switch which achieved a traditional Italian flavor.
Linda’s dessert was SFERA di Caprino, Celery & Fig Agrodolce & Celery Sorbetto. This was like a combination cheese course and dessert. Goat cheese balls are rolled in bread crumbs served with a sensationally good celery sorbet and a sweet and sour sauce. Roan’s was Butterscotch SEMIFREDDO, Preserved Melon Agrumata, Crumbled Sbrisolona & Milk Jam. The butterscotch custard was not too sweet and went nicely with the crumbled Mantuan almond cookie. He really liked it. My dessert was Polenta-Squash CAKE, Zucca al Forno & Sage Gelato. With it I had a glass of “Comtess,” St. Michael Eppan 2004 Alto Adige, which was exquisite.
There was a nice selection of mignardises to finish off.
The pace of the meal was very relaxed, which suited us as we had plenty to talk about, but there were no long delays. The service was efficient and sometimes overly intrusive.
The meal was very good with variations, but only one real disappointment, the agnolotti. Although we enjoy successfully inventive cuisine, we also enjoy this type of traditional menu. At $95 it seems like a bargain. But I can’t understand Sam Sifton’s idea that it ranks above the other top Italian restaurants in New York or deserves to be among the elite of New York restaurants. I would be happy to recommend Del Posto and hope that we will return from time to time.
To see our last meal at Del Posto click here.
The restaurant’s website: