The Del Posto review is below but first I'd like to wax eloquent about a singularly important event that occurred last week...
The parents among us know the special delight to be found in the accomplishments of the next generation, especially as they enter adulthood. Every notable achievement is not just a source of family pride but also a reminder that the little one you once thought of as defenseless in the face of the larger world is now out there making that world his or her own. While our daughter Mary has had her share of achievements, the source of this week's familial pride is my niece, Camille Cogswell, perhaps better known to readers of 'A CITY A WEEK...' as the 'NYC Fine/Dining' columnist.
Two years ago Camille graduated with distinction from the Culinary Institute of America--that other, more delighting 'CIA'. Since then she has been working as a pastry cook in Manhattan, currently at The NoMad. This period of professional apprenticeship seems to have had an almost medieval weight. The hours are very long, the work exacting and the pay--well, let's just say there is pay. It is not, however, the source of the motivation for this relentless pursuit of the perfecting of one's craft. There is validation though and last week it came in form of the very great honor of having a dessert of her own creation placed on the menu at NoMad. In fact, Camille is the first cook--as opposed to the far more senior chef or sous chef--to have ever had a dish placed on the menu. Did I mention she is 24 and only out of school for 2 years? Well, okay, so maybe I did. But how about this--did I mention that I am mind-blowingly proud? Well, I am...and also a more than a little hungry!
Hover for captions above to get a glimpse into the months-long process that lead to 'Corn and Cherry' being added to the menu.
NYC FINE/DINING…DEL POSTO
Stepping into Del Posto Ristorante is like having a dream wash over you, a scene with softened edges and dim lighting. It shimmers in a golden hue from the candles lining the elegant marble staircase and the lamplit white tablecloths. Suited waiters glide from the swanky bar and it's plush leather banquettes to the dining room and up the staircase to the tables arranged on the balcony like opera boxes.
The most grandiose of Mario Batali's New York City restaurants, 24,000 square foot Del Posto opened in 2005 as a collaboration with partners Lidia and Joe Bastianich, with Chef Mark Ladner at the helm of the kitchen. One of only six four-star rated restaurants in NYC by The New York Times, and the only Italian restaurant on the list, Del Posto has also been awarded the Relais & Chateaux distinction as well as five diamonds from AAA and Wine Spectator's Grand Award. It is a temple to the finest of Italian dining, enrobed in European luxury, putting it on par with French Haute cuisine. It also has one of the best lunch deals in the city, offering three courses for $49 at the same quality of food and service as dinner. Reservations are highly recommended no matter what time of day you plan on dining, and you should dress the part; you might be turned away if you show up in shorts or jeans.
Chef Ladner had previously helped Batali and Bastianich open Babbo, Lupa, and Otto, their other acclaimed Italian restaurants in the city. This incredibly talented and humble man still doesn't take himself too seriously and can be seen wearing jean shorts with his chef jacket in the kitchen. That grounded characteristic is what keeps this experience in the lap of luxury from feeling too stuffy or overly pompous. There is a twinkle in the eye of every waiter and enough endearing quirks to generate spontaneous bursts of delighted laughter amidst the breathtaking atmosphere and flawless service. It might only be halfway through your meal when you realize that the lilting piano melody issuing from the man behind the grand is Tina Turner's “Private Dancer” or Ozzy Osborne's “Crazy Train.”
My best friend, roommate, and parter-in-culinary-crime, Gina Nalbone has been working in the pastry department at Del Posto since we moved to NYC from culinary school together a year and a half ago. She has moved up the ranks and recently earned a very well-deserved promotion to Pastry Sous Chef. It was with her and two other gals that I dined this past month. So it's with a certain bias that I write this article; they treated us with the abounding love and generosity of doting on a member of their own family. However, I can assure you from many accounts that the hospitality with which any guest is treated at Del Posto is at a level that is rivaled by very few.
The food comes poised on gorgeous china, all imported from Richard Ginori, an Italian family business dating back to 1735 whose porcelain products are historically some of the highest quality and most prized in the country. The gold embellishments and scalloped edges of the varying and beautiful plates give the dishes an old-fashioned class, yet the restrained and modern construction of the food exudes a simple elegance, keeping the whole thing from feeling outdated or disjointed.
Whisked to the table first by our graciously formal, and incredibly friendly server, Richard, are the assaggi. Literally meaning “tastes” in Italian, these are the equivalent of an amuse bouche in a French kitchen, meant to awaken your palate for the meal to come. Chef Ladner and his team offer up a varitable flight of fritters, daikon wraps, and a thimbleful of warm and satisfying vegetable consomme floating above a spoonful of creamy lentils.
Diners have the option of ordering a la carte or choosing a five or eight course menu, constructed by the guest from the categories on the dinner menu. However, without ever glancing at a menu, us ladies agree to let Chef Ladner do his worst and send us whatever food he sees fit. He starts us with a delicate arrangement of five fish crudos, each singing with Del Posto's Primo Extra Virgin Olive Oil, my favorite being the arctic char with caviar and crème fraiche. An endearing fairytale garden salad with tender summer vegetables and greens from the Union Square Greenmarket draws depth from a sumptuously creamy smear of robiolina cheese and caraway croutons. A showstopper arrives in the form of perfectly poached halibut, the top crusted in a crumble of almonds and Moorish spices, encircled by cauliflower puree and a mindblowing onion jam. If this wasn't special enough, the china it's served on is a collaboration between Richard Ginori and the designer Gucci.
I get tingly all over when the next course arrives because it is a pasta, and Del Posto's pasta is arguably the best in NYC, possibly the best you will ever have. The first is simple in its indulgence: bauletti filled with supple ricotta in a sauce of black truffle butter. Richard shaves fresh black truffles over our plates as we try to close our gaping, watering mouths. The second is a bold dungeness crab spaghetti with jalapeno and scallion. And the last, Gina's favorite pasta in the world, and I have to say, maybe mine: orecchiette in a lamb neck ragu, on the menu year-round, but for the season drizzled in a stunning contrast of minted pea puree and crème fraiche, sprinkled with crispy chanterelle mushrooms.
Gluten intolerant diners need not shed a tear, any pasta on the menu is available gluten-free. Chef Ladner has dedicated much time to perfecting his gluten-free pasta recipe and is even pursuing a side project he calls Pasta Flyer, a quick-service food venture focusing on gluten-free pastas. Del Posto also offers an entirely vegan and gluten-free eight course tasting menu.
As we sit, relishing our superb glasses of Brunello di Montalcino, a medallion of tender veal arrives, wrapped seamlessly with a layer of beef, seared to impossible perfection. A potato chip and watercress salad playfully balances this succulent masterpiece.
Gina's team pulls out all the stops for us when it comes to dessert, dropping six plates on our table at once. The creamy sweet corn panna cotta is brightened with blueberries and tarragon. A beautifully roasted nectarine is served beside a lemon torta, fior di latte, and basil. Butterscotch semifreddo comes with fresh blackberries and dried melon rehydrated in verjus, the plate streaked with a caramelized milk jam. A fried peach is tossed in cardamom sugar and topped with a scoop of yogurt sorbet before being drizzled with maple syrup. The star in my eyes is a stunning tower of candied bread layered with cappuccino and chocolate gelatos and studded with lightly roasted apricots, not only because I love coffee desserts, but also because this one is Gina's creation.
As we wind down our meal with petit fours served in a charming wooden box with a sliding cheese grater that reveals more treats below, I just now realize how late it is and that I have work at 5am the next morning. Time seemingly holds it's breath inside the doors of this secret garden of Italian elegance; the bustle of NYC outside seems worlds away. The experience created at Del Posto by this incredible team: Chef Ladner, General Manager Jeff Katz, Wine Director Michael Greeson, and their entire staff, is singularly unique and nothing short of magical. There are few other restaurants in the world presenting Italian dining at such a high level. I'm in awe that this is part of Gina's day-to-day life and couldn't be more proud of her; at 22 years old, she has such a bright future ahead.
85 10th Ave.
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30am – 2pm
Dinner: Mon-Fri 5:30 – 11pm
Sat 4:30 – 11pm
Sun 4:30 – 10pm
Three Course Lunch Prix Fixe: $49
Five Course Dinner Menu: $126 ($95 optional wine pairing)
Eight Course Captain's Dinner Menu: $179 ($155 optional wine pairing)