Mon-Thu, noon-10pm; Sat, one hour after sundown-midnight; Sun, 11am-10pm; Fri, closed
4, 5, 6 at 86th St.
American Express, MasterCard, Visa
72nd St. to 92nd St., York Ave. to Fifth Ave.
To walk into Va Bene is like crashing an after-temple Shabbat dinner—in a Roman trattoria decorated to look like a presidential Pullman car. Bubbies, babies, and yarmulkes abound in the pumpkin-colored dining room. Mahogany paneling gleams and soft light glows from behind gathered-fabric sconces. The mood is convivial and contented, as if set by the restaurant's name, which means, "it goes well." Customers here feast on kosher minestrone, salmon carpaccio, and Insalata di Cesare—rustic Italian fare, said to be inspired by the three centuries that Jews were confined to the ghetto in Rome. From adversity came some delicious, even beautiful, dishes: The caprese is a warm, rich dome of handmade mozzarella draped with garlicky roasted peppers. Pastas, all housemade, are hearty and satisfying. And Carciofi alla Giudia, fried artichokes, a quintessentially Judeo-Roman dish, look like chrysanthemums, crisp and golden, with tender, earthy centers. Of course, we all have our flaws: fresh tomatoes that are hard and under ripe or fish that tends to be cooked to a desert-like dryness. The family-owned restaurant's claim that it serves "NYC’s only Dairy Kosher Cuisine of Rome" is a half-truth; sister-restaurant Tevere, a few blocks away, offers a similar menu. Both restaurants feature all-kosher wine lists as well, with bottles from Italy to Israel and beyond.Recommended Dishes
Carciofi alla giudia, $18.95; caprese, $16.95