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Style and Substance

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Like the in-flight meal, museum food is a necessary institutional evil. But if the second-floor canteen at the reopened MoMA is any indication, New York might be ushering in the new age of the cultural cafeteria. It’s a testament to operator Danny Meyer and his museum team’s success that Cafe 2—the 138-seat, Italian-themed component of Meyer’s multipronged MoMA venture—is already as inviting a destination as the museum itself, and as smartly designed. Architect Peter Bentel traveled to Denmark with Paola Antonelli, the museum’s architecture and design curator, to troll for *wallpaper-worthy furnishings like the handsome Gubi chairs that line the long communal tables. The aesthetic may be Scandinavian, but the menu’s pure Italian. Conceived as a Roman-style rosticceria, Cafe 2 teems with visual cues: the hanging prosciutto, the wine racks along the wall, the refurbished 1932 Berkel meat slicer. The service is as carefully considered. A hostess, well-versed in Meyer-caliber crowd control, explains procedure: Order and pay at the counter, where you’ll receive a number you clip into a stand at your table. Servers clad in Yeohlee aprons will track you down and deliver beautifully arrayed platters of imported meats and cheese, served with oil-drizzled rosemary flatbread; fresh, leafy salads; and a rotating roster of sandwiches, from tuna tramezzini (a tad heavy on the lemon mayo) to sumptuous rosemary-tinged roast pork. Glistening roasted vegetables make for a mesmerizing antipasto display, not to mention cafeteria-friendly food. Italian wines come in whimsically wobbly quartinos; chocolate-chip cookies, baked by Marc Aumont (pastry chef for the soon-to-open Modern restaurant and the dessert-oriented, waiter-service fifth-floor café), arrive on stainless-steel Georg Jensen trays. Wanna take a little Modern home with you? The red rubber Ole Jensen ice bucket can be had for $75 in the shop downstairs.

Cafe 2
Museum of Modern Art
11 W. 53rd St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-708-9400


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