I was put off by an old-fashioned lack of focus in an early visit to Padre Figlio, Antonio and son Mario Cerra’s velvet-swathed emporium not far from the U.N. Its Italian-steakhouse ambition was sidetracked by so many fussed-up Italian favorites. Then I heard that gelato sorcerer Gino Cammarata, back in business with his brother Enzo in a Brooklyn suntanning parlor, was not just delivering his celebrated ice creams here but had also shared a few Sicilian pasta tricks with the chef. Tonight we bring our own focus. “Gino’s pastas,” we command. Antonio wins the first salvo with sensational salumi, Parmigiano chunks, and olives—a tripling of the usual house offering—plus a new Sicilian salad starring sardines and blood orange, a blowsy fashion victim in its radicchio-leaf bowl that is quirkily delicious. I’m in Sicily again as I swirl my fork in Gino’s classic bucatini con le sarde—sardines, fennel, caramelized onions, pine nuts (too many), and toasted bread crumbs. Then I pass it on so I can taste spaghetti in a heady toss of bottarga, garlic, and orange peel. My guy’s $42 thick-cut veal chop is flawless, but our Italian companion’s porterhouse of Piedmontese beef from Omaha ($86 for two) is not just tender but, to me, strangely soft. “It is what it is,” he says with a shrug, savoring the taste of home. Gino’s mythic pistachio and hazelnut gelati are the longed-for finale, and come with a bonus—cassata-ice-cream affogato—smothered in espresso.
310 E. 44th St., nr. Second Ave.; 212-286-4310