- scene: Sophistication without stuffiness
- sip: You can have whatever you like...
- savor: Stromboli; short rib; pomodoro; duck agnolotti
- sit: On a date; with parents; alone at the bar
- spend: $$$
- address: 43 East 20th Street (between Park and Broadway)
- phone number: (212) 777-5314
- website: www.fusconewyork.com
I am going to stand strong behind my glowing recommendation for Fusco, but I will note that Daryl’s experience was less stellar than mine. I found everything about Fusco to be above par, including the decor, the service and of course the food, and have been aggressively recommending it ever since I dined there. I was disappointed to hear that Daryl had a serious service issue, but let’s be glass half full for now, shall we?
As I have said before, we have loved Scott Conant since L’Impero, and have dined at all of his restaurants, even Impero Caffe (let’s just skip that place for now). Fusco is the restaurant Scott Conant deserves- refined but not restrained, adult but approachable, inventive but not contrived. Fusco is a solid pick for for any grown-up scenario, professional or personal, including dates, meeting the parents or entertaining co-workers from out of town.
It is not easy to get a reservation at Fusco (thanks RESY), but there is a great bar suitable for eating, as well as extremely limited seating reserved for walk-ins. The space has a typical Gramercy layout- windows up front leading to a dining room in the back. The palette is neutral but not dull, and the crowd is nicely dressed and not selfie- taking, with a sprinkling of some t-shirt wearing bankers and corporate types. Husband and I went on a date night and I felt cool and cosmopolitan, happy to be a place where people were happy to be; Daryl went on a girls night.
On my maiden visit, my server was knowledgable, friendly, and proactive; we never had to look around to get what we needed and felt well-tended to. She made appropriate suggestions and was interested in our feedback. Daryl reports that her server was pushy, aggressive and intent on flagrantly over-selling at every possible chance. A tie-breaking return visit on my part found me with an overtly friendly server whose tune changed quite noticeably from welcoming to barely tolerant once he realized we would not be ordering a tasting menu or bottles of wine.
As for the food, the stromboli made the move to Fusco, but unfortunately it is no longer free in the bread basket (that was clearly too good to last), but it is worth every penny of cheesy, pepperoni goodness in a larger size. The Truffled Pea Caesar with Caviar and Burrata was light and seasonal, although slightly unevenly dressed, the best bites being those coated with any dressing. The short rib appetizer is a delicious option, not as heavy as I had anticipated and reminiscent of my grandmother’s brisket (that is a good thing.)
Everyone knows about Scott Conant’s Pasta al Pomodoro, a silky, glorious sauce whose impact far surpasses its seemingly simple make-up. The portion is beyond generous but somehow manages to disappear with ease, and the pasta is similar to those I sampled in Italy. HOWEVER, there is a new star pasta on the menu at Fusco, and it makes no illusions about being simple or common, the Duck Agnolotti. Described only as being prepared with ceci beans and foie gras, this dish is rich and complex but not clawing, featuring delicate noodles stuffed with a savory duck and foie gras filling, coated with a light foam. This is a necessary addition to any order, and I don’t even usually eat foie gras, so trust me.
A few freestyle notes: My most recent visit presented a newly configured dining room, with a double-sided banquette running down the middle, which allows for more seating, but also slightly less room to move around and more noise. The wines by the glass are expensive- my friend had a white and a red that each cost $28. Gluten-free pasta is available for the Pomodoro, as well as a vegetarian option for the Stromboli and gluten-free bread. Oh, and also, I got to meet the always friendly Scott Conant, which always makes me a little tongue tied, I think its the mega-watt smile or disarming lack of pretense, or maybe just the talent…