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Caravaggio

Critic's Pick Critics' Pick

23 E. 74th St., New York, NY 10021 40.773279 -73.964827
nr. Madison Ave.  See Map | Subway Directions Hopstop Popup
212-288-1004 Send to Phone

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  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Price Range: $$$$

    Key to Prices and ratings

    Upscale
    • Almost Perfect
    • Exceptional
    • Generally Excellent
    • Very Good
    • Good
    Cheap Eats
    • Best in Category
    • Excellent
    • Delicious
    • Very Good
    • Noteworthy
    • Very Expensive
    • Expensive
    • Moderate
    • Cheap
  • Critics' Rating: *

    Key to Prices and ratings

    Upscale
    • Almost Perfect
    • Exceptional
    • Generally Excellent
    • Very Good
    • Good
    Cheap Eats
    • Best in Category
    • Excellent
    • Delicious
    • Very Good
    • Noteworthy
    • Very Expensive
    • Expensive
    • Moderate
    • Cheap
  • Reader Rating:

    10 out of 10

      |  

    1 Reviews | Write a Review

Photo by Cynthia Chung

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Hours

Mon-Sat, noon-3pm and 5pm-11pm; Sun, noon-3pm and 5pm-10pm

Prices

$25-$55

Payment Methods

American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Special Features

  • Notable Wine List
  • Online Reservation

Alcohol

  • Full Bar

Reservations

Recommended

Profile

This place feels very Bernie Madoff to me, said my wife, as we scanned the intimate little room at Caravaggio, which opened among the lonely art galleries and half-empty boutiques just off Madison Avenue in the Seventies. There were plumes of bread sticks at the linen-topped tables and little bread baskets made of woven silver. The loquacious maître d’ looked as if he’d suddenly appeared from a semi-grand restaurant in Milan (Yes, it’s true, I’ve been married five times), as did the portly gourmand next to us, who was carrying a gold-tipped cane and wearing a handkerchief stuffed in his breast pocket. The graying, still-moneyed crowd sniffed white truffles shaved over plates of buttered fettuccine ($130, or $65 for an appetizer portion) and poured their big Tuscan wines from glass decanters. They wore spangled blouses and stiff corporate suits, and everyone in the brightly lit room seemed to know one another, including a gentleman in the corner who looked suspiciously like the governor of New Jersey.

This dose of extreme pre-bust nostalgia comes courtesy of the Bruno brothers, whose midtown restaurant, San Pietro, has served as a kind of unofficial lunchtime clubhouse for many of the city’s financial kingpins since it opened in 1991. Caravaggio, which occupies the old Coco Pazzo space on East 74th Street, seems to have been designed as a kind of intimate uptown refuge for the brothers’ traditional plutocrat clientele. Certainly the prices hover at the traditional plutocrat level. My simple-sounding antipasto di mare was not simple at all (shrimp, scallops, and crabmeat folded in an opulent sea-urchin sauce) and cost $25. The classic vitello tonnato (artfully thin veal, with a frothy tuna sauce) cost just a few dollars less ($22). The cheapest appetizer options on the elaborate menu are a pleasantly garlicky assemblage of snails from Sicily (set over a root-vegetable risotto and sprinkled with garlic chips), and a scraggly-looking salad tossed with cherry tomatoesboth are eighteen bucks.

But if, by some miracle, you’re not feeling a little pinched (or if you’re in the company of a generous, aged Upper East Side aunt), it must be said that this kind of intimate, old-world glitter still has its allure. The wine list at Caravaggio is as thick as a phone book, the pastas are stiffened with extravagant amounts of butter and cream, and the Italian (or maybe Albanian) waiters recite the endless list of daily specials with solemn ceremony, like actors on a stage. Nice but heavy was my neighbor’s assessment of her chicken-liver risotto ($25), which was followed to the table by bows of farfalle dressed with a heart-stopping Parmesan cream ($26), and a tangle of bacon-laced fettuccine all’Amatriciana ($22) rich enough to feed a family of four. That sturdy peasant delicacy bollito misto (assorted cow and chicken parts in a rich broth) is listed as an appetizer, but if you sample it before the pastas, you may find yourself falling into a dreamy, semi-comatose state before the $40 entrées ever arrive.

Ideal Meal

Fettuccine all’Amatriciana, bollito misto or Pollo Caravaggio, tiramisu.

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