- scene: Exudes coziness while remaining rather traditionally chic; More welcoming in style and attitude than your average midtown staple - meow to that!
- sip: Italian vino is king on this spot's list
- savor: Everything looked and sounded amazing, but we can vouch for the braised baby escarole, lasagna, and rigatoni with spicy anduja sausage
- sit: Not a bad spot in the narrow dining room, but if you are feeling lucky, try to snag a table in the back garden room.
- spend: $$$
- address: 33 W 54th St. (btw 5th Ave & Ave of the Americas)
- phone number: (212) 246-0412
- website: www.ilgattopardonyc.com
Feeling displaced during Hurricane Sandy, the Pants needed comfort food – which to us, means good ol’ Ital, and moreover, PASTA. After a hectic week, date night was also in order, so an expert midtowner referred us to Il Gattopardo. After creeping the menu/website, it was clear that this place was going to be the cat’s (or leopard’s) meow.
Located across from the MoMA, Il Gattopardo is a cozy spot with an intimate dining room and a glass enclosed garden room in the back. This was set for a large dinner party, so remember that for next time you are planning a special dinner. Apparently Il Gattopardo is a power lunch spot, but since the Pants conduct business downtown, we were unaware that this is sometimes mentioned on the same lists as Michael’s and Milos amongst the Suits.
Anyway, a charming host is at the door, immediately setting the welcoming, warm tone to the restaurant. Such a breath of fresh air compared to most attitudinal NYC hostesses. The other diners in the room looked more like seasoned Upper East Siders/Midtowners-in-the-know than tourists; however given the location, I am sure that there were plenty fashionable Euros in hiding.
The menu is filled with Southern Italian fare, with one dish sounding better than the next… then the specials are recited, which just makes decision making even tougher! Although this was our first visit, it is fair to say you can’t go wrong. The special kidney bean soup was thick and full of flavor, and better yet – dairy free. The braised baby escarole filled with minced black olives, anchovy, and pine nuts also had a richness to it that made us forget we were eating vegetables.
Although choosing a dish for dinner was nearly impossible, we were on a pasta mission, and also had a tip that Il Gattopardo’s lasagna is one of the best on the island of Manhattan. Those are tough shoes to fill, but nevertheless, I’d fill those shoes once a week if I could! The lasagna came with mini meatballs, ricotta, and smoked mozz, and wasn’t bechemel-y like lasagna tends to be when made traditionally. I opted for the rigatoni with a very spicy anduja sausage and sweet onions sauce, which came out looking like a bolognese and tasting like heaven after a storm plagued week. The sauce had some spice to it, although it probably could have used a little extra kick, and the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente. We also ordered spicy broccoli rabe, because you just have to have your greens with your grains, and the waiter brought over some additional treats to the table which were two different types of risotto balls. Who can pay attention to freebies when you have pasta amazingness in front of you?
Since we licked our plates clean, we opted to skip dessert, but who ever has room for dessert after an Italian food and wine feast? Il Gattopardo is our new favorite feline, so next time you are looking for a date near the office, a place to feast after a shopping spree at Bergdorf Goodman, or a spot to recharge after the MoMA, give this kitty a try!