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Restaurant Openings & Buzz

Week of Dec. 19, 2005: Del Posto, Dani, Spiga, and Agnanti Meze.

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Openings
Del Posto
The (nearly) lost uptown art of elegant tableside service resurfaces downtown this week with the opening of Mario Batali & Co.’s Del Posto, where captains in Narciso Rodriguez suits begin wheeling out the mahogany bollito misto cart (pictured). And that’s not all. Everything from stinco di vitello with kraut and spaetzle for two ($70) to zabaglione is prepared, carved, or finished tableside. If you like to dine in large but civilized groups, you may want to home in on the per il tavola section of the menu, which features tailgate-party-size hunks of veal, lamb, pork loin, and whole salt-baked arctic char served with panelle, meant for sharing, and priced accordingly, from $200 on up. (How a conspicuously solo and forlorn Michelin inspector will handle the assignment is anyone’s guess.) À la carte is more in line with Babbo prices, from $18 for a primi plate of bucatini to $28 for a grilled pork chop with cippolini. As far as the room goes, it’s as well marbled as Donald Trump’s bathtub, and there’s an all-star staff of Bataliland luminaries toiling away in the vast kitchen, but nary a hint of a pre-opening orgy so far.
85 Tenth Ave., at 16th St.; 212-497-8090


Dani's housemade ricotta.  

Dani
Best known for his long stint at Tribeca Grill (and a foray to Fort Lauderdale to open Trina), chef Don Pintabona is channeling his Sicilian heritage into a much more personal project, opening this week in the west-of-Soho neighborhood known as Hudson Square. The Mediterranean menu at Dani (pronounced Donny), like Sicilian cuisine itself, incorporates North African, European, and Arabic culinary influences and features dishes like chickpea-fried calamari, rabbit cacciatore with semolina dumplings, and mint panna cotta with blood-orange gelée. The turn-of-the-past-century warehouse space retains its original concrete columns and wood floor and offers a view of the kitchen from the chef’s “peninsula.”
333 Hudson St., at Charlton St.; 212-633-9333


Duck with chocolate sauce at Spiga.  

Spiga
Alessandro Peluso and Salvatore Corea, partners at Cacio e Pepe, expand to the Upper West Side next week with another refreshingly offbeat Italian restaurant. Corea punctuates his menu with unexpected flavors and textures, like the spicy gelatin that garnishes burrata, and the fried cream that accompanies pan-roasted pork loin. Which isn’t to say he’s pulling an Italian-accented Ferran Adrià—less adventurous palates can content themselves with mushroom lasagne, pumpkin ravioli, and customized plates of cheeses and cured meats.
200 W. 84th St., nr. Amsterdam Ave.; 212-362-5506


Agnanti's shrimp kadaifi.  

Agnanti Meze
Over the past three years, Agnanti has distinguished itself from the considerable Astoria competition with its impossibly tender charred octopus, its signature rooster pasta, and the Turkish dishes that Constantinople’s Greek community adopted as its own. A new 80-seat Brooklyn branch clones this winning formula, from the mostly Greek wine list and compellingly soggy oat-rusk salad down to the bric-a-brac and pottery that adorn the interior.
7802 Fifth Ave., Bay Ridge, Brooklyn; 718-833-7033

And. . .
Baci & Abbracci, opening as soon as the liquor license arrives, is Rocco Cadolini’s casual, freewheeling follow-up to his stylishly spare Tribeca restaurant Roc. The walls are inlaid with Italian tile, and the menu focuses on pastas and pizza, the latter baked in a wood-burning oven by a pizzaiolo from Sorrento (204 Grand St., nr. Bedford Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-599-6599).

Manhattan’s superstore landscape has changed considerably since the original Balducci’s was sold—first to Sutton Place Gourmet, then to Bear Stearns Merchant Banking. But the new Chelsea “flagship” has a couple things the competition doesn’t: a stained-glass-and-marble setting, a dining area with free wi-fi, and culinary director Katy Sparks’s Berkshire pork-shoulder porchetta (81 Eighth Ave., at 14th St.; 212-741-3700).


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