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L’Impero

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In Manhattan’s spring shuffle of three-star toques, Fiamma’s Michael White now reigns in departed chef Scott Conant’s three-star kitchen at L’Impero. His new menu reflects the dazzling sunniness of Southern Italy’s markets and his own unleashed exuberance. Clearly White is feeling reborn, madly in love with the intensity of lemons and eggplant and Pecorino from Campania, Sicily, Sardinia, with the sweetness of honey and vin cotto, a flavoring made of reduced wine must. I have a partner who lets me make spaghetti chitarra on the metal cutter, handmade orecchiette, and my own homemade maccheroni, he marvels. Tonight that very special maccheroni comes deliciously sauced with Neapolitan pork-shoulder ragù on the four-course prix fixe, which is still a bargain at $64. The charming sommelier indulges us with a slightly chilled $45 red from Alto Adige, perfect for a summer night. Burrata sits in a pool of gently spiced chilled tomato zuppa, clams with real clam savor ring a crispy cod fritter in a garlicky brodetto. There’s a delicious flurry of ingredients, with grilled octopus, celery hearts, olives, and bottarga vinaigrette. Roasted monkfish in a white-bean-and-mussel broth has a sharp tang of confited lemon. Admittedly you might never find dishes this busy in Italy, the land of simplicity. White’s spirited celebration can be over-the-top, as with grilled strip steak and corn crema, layered with sweet-and-sour peppers and rosemary salt. Well, it’s early. At some point, he may come to see that less can occasionally be more.

L’Impero
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45 Tudor City Pl., nr. 42nd St.; 212-599-5045


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