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Restaurant Openings

Week of May 14, 2007: Spirito Ristorante, Perilla, Casellula Cheese & Wine Café, and Sandro’s.

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Spirito Ristorante  

Spirito Ristorante
287 9th St., nr. Fifth Ave., Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-832-0085
What happens when three Italian expats (two of them restaurateurs, one a D.J.) get to know each other through their children’s school? They open a nice Italian restaurant, of course. That’s how Pierluigi Palazzo (owner of Gnocco and Perbacco in the East Village), Giovanni Caveggia (formerly a co-owner of Gradisca), and Mariano Franzese (one of the founders of Turntables on the Hudson) came to open Spirito in Park Slope. To keep it all in the (Italian) family, so to speak, they hooked up with Claudio Cristofoli of Cipriani Downtown to concoct a trattoria menu of classic and modern Italian dishes like bucatini all’amatriciana and prosciutto di Parma with fresh mango. There’s a piatti del giorno list, too, including Saturday’s polpettine (little meatballs with mashed potatoes), which must have been devised with the kids in mind.


Perilla
9 Jones St., nr. W. 4th St.; 212-929-6868
Nearly a year after his Top Chef victory, Harold Dieterle opens Perilla, an American restaurant named for the aromatic Asian herb. Although widely used in Japanese and Southeast Asian cooking, the cousin of basil and mint is confined here to a frozen yogurt that garnishes sticky coconut cake. But Dieterle’s fascination with Asian flavors finds expression in dishes like Okinawa yam dumplings with spicy duck meatballs, and sautéed skate wing with watermelon pickles, Thai basil, and hibiscus broth. Before he became a reality-TV star, Dieterle was the sous-chef at the Harrison, which is where he met his current managing partner, Alicia Nosenzo, who’d risen through Danny Meyer’s hospitality ranks. Nosenzo’s wine list at Perilla is small, eclectic, and meant to complement Dieterle’s food, with an emphasis on Rieslings and Burgundian Pinot Noirs.


Casellula Cheese & Wine Café
401 W. 52nd St., nr. Ninth Ave.; 212-247-8137
Brian Keyser has nothing against fine food and wine. He’s been serving it for almost a decade as a waiter at some of New York’s top restaurants, including Chanterelle, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and most recently the Modern, where he ran the cheese program. It’s just that he could do without the stuffiness, the pretension, and especially the suit. So this weekend, Keyser and Joe Farrell, a fellow former waiter, will open Casellula, where he’ll get to talk cheese in jeans and a T-shirt. Roughly three dozen varieties will be available at a time—some, like Estrella Family Creamery’s Dominoes, making their New York debut. The menu incorporates cheese, or beer, or both, into nearly every dish, from brûléed Rogue River Blue with cherries and Otis Oatmeal Stout bread to lemon tart with pistachios and goat-cheese ice cream (pictured). Local produce will be pickled and canned to extend their seasons, and local beer from Red Hook’s Sixpoint Craft Ales will be on tap.


Sandro’s
306 E. 81st St., nr. Second Ave.; 212-288-7374
For a big guy (six foot four in his stocking feet), Sandro Fioriti gets around. The Roman expat opened his first eponymous restaurant with Tony May in 1985, and when it closed eight years later he ricocheted from the Hamptons to St. Martin. In the mid-nineties, he reacquainted New Yorkers with his spaghettini al limone and Roman-style fried artichokes (pictured) during stints at Noodle Pudding, Il Buco, and a second Sandro’s. Then he flitted between a half-dozen Upper East Side kitchens. So what is one to make of the third Sandro’s to open in 22 years? “This is my place now; I’m going to be here for a long time,” insists the nomadic chef, who plans to woo the neighborhood (oddly but endearingly) with free pasta (cacio e pepe) after midnight at the bar, and warm cornetti with Nutella after 1 a.m.


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