Mon-Fri, 5pm-11:30pm; Sat, 11:30am-3pm and 5pm-11:30pm; Sun, 11:30am-3pm and 5pm-10pm
1 at 66th St.-Lincoln Center; B, C at 72nd St.
Appetizers, $9 to $15; entrées, $24 to $40
American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
57th St. to 77th St., Central Park West to Riverside Blvd.
The Leopard at des Artistes, the new uptown Italian restaurant from the husband-and-wife team of Gianfranco and Paula Bolla Sorrentino, which opened late this spring in the legendary Café des Artistes space off Central Park West, is another kind of New York dining club, with a very particular membership in mind. On my first visit, one of my guests spotted Lloyd Blankfein at the next table, gnawing fiercely on a very large steak bone. Next to the diminutive Goldman Sachs kingpin was Woody Allen, dressed in his rumpled khaki suit and holding court at a table with some friends and a stoic-looking Soon-Yi. Later in the evening, as we admired the sprays of flowers around the softly lit room and the famous Des Artistes murals of nude goddesses and capering wood nymphs, Steve Martin came strolling by our table, spotted a friend in the crowd, and doffed his porkpie hat.
This kind of old-fashioned A-list celebrity spotting (the Sorrentinos cultivate a similar clientele at their midtown restaurant, Il Gattopardo—the Leopard in Italian) makes a trip to the Leopard worthwhile, provided you’re willing to put up with the prices (only three entrées are under $30) and the steady procession of uneven, fairly rudimentary Southern Italian grub. I enjoyed my grilled-octopus (with green olives) appetizer well enough, but the broth covering a tepid version of Sardinian “fregula” seafood stew tasted like it had been poured from a tomato can. The risotto of the day (with summer vegetables) was beautifully cooked, but the simple spaghetti alla chitarra (with tomatoes and basil) was so gummy and listless that one of my scandalized tasters compared it to “Sicilian hospital food.” The branzino drew similar comments, so order the simple roasted dorado instead, followed, for dessert, by the smooth, dissolving flan, which is touched, in classic uptown style, with caramel sauce and the lightest hint of passion fruitIdeal Meal
Risotto of the day; dorado with olive oil and lemons; mascarpone flan.