345-349 E. 83rd St.
Upper East Side
When 83 1/2 shuttered three months after its late-2012 opening, chef Ryan Skeen was just starting to build buzz around his New American offerings. Two months later, the restaurant reopened with a new chef, Will Foden from Boston’s Bina Osteria, at the stoves. Replacing Skeen’s globalized menu is Sicilian-skewing Italian fare. In this small space, the food is as accessible as the chef, who can be seen wrangling flame-sputtering pans through the open kitchen; you can even get a close-up view at a chef’s counter that seats five. Start your meal with a few items from the well-rounded selection of small plates, like risotto fritters cocooning tangy shreds of oxtail and tomato. While the appetizers alone are worth coming for, red-sauce dishes are how Foden’s marking his territory, giving antipasti like tripe delightful piquancy, while thriving at entrées like pork cheeks on a bed of polenta. One misstep is the soggy tagliatini, which is overwhelmed by chunks of tough poached tuna, but for the most part, the convivial atmosphere, modest prices, and refined Southern Italian comfort food make 83 1/2 the classy older sister to Gino’s, the owner’s brother’s pizzeria next door.