Ai Fiori is the latest in Michael White’s empire of haute Italian cuisine (Marea and Osteria Morini are the others). Osteria Morini is home of the Stracci Pasta, one of the best dishes I’ve ate this year. Ai Fiori has been on my list since it opened in April and has received accolades as one of the best new openings this year. I finally made it for a holiday dinner with colleagues which was the perfect occasion for this restaurant. Ai Fiori is located in the Setai Hotel on Fifth Avenue.
One of my downfalls lately is too much attention to the recommended dishes at each restaurant instead of just ordering what I want to eat. My meal choices closely followed the NY Mag what to order choice. We started with our own appetizer, ordered three pastas for the table and then each had our own entrees.
For appetizers we tried the Branzino and the Bone Marrow (not pictured). They were underwhelming. The crudo was fresh but combined with the caviar it was too fishy for me.
Michael White is the master of pastas and they did not disappoint. The Spaghetti was my favorite which surprised me because the first time I had Bottarga was in Italy and I despised it. The Agnolotti was very rich but delicious and the Risotto was way too fishy.
The main course was a lamb crusted in fois gras which was extremely rich. I finished it and was glad I ordered it but would not order it again. The other mains at the table were the Vitello and the Lobster neither of which packed as much flavor as the lamb but both seemed lighter.
I recommend skipping Ai Fiori and trying Osteria Morini or Marea instead.--DBlock
Forcella has recently been receiving a lot of buzz within the blogging community. I’m always up for trying new pizza spots and this one stuck out as a must get to before they get their liquor license. We arrived at 7pm on a Saturday without a reservation which was perfect timing to snag a seat at the bar with no wait. However it became quite crowded shortly after we sat down. The host and waiter were very warm and welcoming and both spoke Italian which I thought was a benefit.
The appetizer menu is limited so we went straight to two pies ordering the Montenaro from the fried pizza list and the Materdei (margherita and hot salami). Both were delivered to the table hot and delicious. The pizzas both tasted really good and were made with fresh imported ingredients. The Materdei was not as crispy as I would have liked but had a really nice char from the wood-oven. The bill was $40 for two people (two pizzas and two sodas) and it seems like this will turn into even more of a scenester place than it is now once they get their liquor license. I would gladly come back, if you are a pizza fan this place is definitely worth a try.
When the wait at Eataly’s Pizza and Pasta dining area was 90 minutes we decided we could venture downtown to get our Batali fix at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria (5th Avenue & 8th Street). This was my first trip to Otto and as soon as we stepped inside the restaurant’s ambiance impressed me. We were seated right away (Sunday around 4pm).
The server was friendly and had a ton of suggestions and really knew his way around the menu. We started with my favorite kind of antipasto – a meat platter of Prosciutto, Pancetta, Coppa, Testa & Salami. All of the meats were awesome except Testa. For those of you that don’t speak Italian Testa means Head and yes it was Head Cheese. I had a few awful experiences with Testa in the past but decided to try it again… still GROSS (for those of you who don’t know the definition of head cheese is a meat jelly made with flesh from the head of a calf or pig). Out of the things I have tried I think Head Cheese/Testa is the most repulsive and I still do not like it. But hey four out of five of the meats were delicious.
For the main course we ordered two pizzas:
The Margherita D.O.P. (Tomato, Bufala Mozzarella and Basil)
Quattro Stagione (Four Seasons, tomato & mozzarella served with one-quarter of each: swiss chard, mushrooms, peppers, cotto)
Both of the pizzas came to our table piping hot. The mix of a perfectly cooked crust, great tasting sauce and delicious toppings hit the spot.
The waiter told us we couldn’t leave without trying the homemade gelato. They have about 10 flavors) we tried Salty Peanut and Vanilla. They were so creamy and had just the right amount of sweetness for the perfect post meal dessert.
There are many other dishes on the menu (most for under $10) including vegetable sides, pasta dishes, about 12 different pizzas, various cheeses. I plan on coming back multiple times to try many other dishes. Don’t get me wrong there are definitely better places to get pizza in the city but this is a trip worth making.
I have nothing bad to say about this place except if you have friends that don’t like pizza or pasta (1. you shouldn’t be friends with them) but they probably will not enjoy it.
Review: 4/5 Stars--DBlock
On Thursday 11/4 I went to A Voce Columbus Circle with a few co-workers. We had the privilege of dining on a corporate card so price and over-indulgence was a non-issue. I wasn’t able to snap any photos since it was a business dinner but for our purposes I will attempt to sub-in Yelp photos. The Time Warner Center is one of my favorite places to bring tourists for shopping and an excuse to check out Columbus Circle/Central Park. We started with a few bottles of wine, I’m not a wine connoisseur but I was impressed with the selection. For the antipasti course we had multiple meats in a charcuterie platter. I highly recommend the Wild Boar. We also had the Fungi Al Forno, Pancetta and Calamari. The Calamari was grilled and I typically prefer fried but this was some of the most tender calamari I have ever had. The mushrooms were also delicious but I could have done without their famous pancetta.
The pasta dishes were some of the best I have had in New York (top five worthy). We ordered about four dishes and they were all fantastic. I don’t think you could go wrong with any choice but if they have truffles in season go for it. They shave the truffles on to the pasta table side, which I loved.
For mains we ordered the Pollo Al Matone which was A-mazing. I broke one of my rules - that I don’t eat chicken at restaurants (it is easy enough to make at home) but it was well worth it. The skin was crispy the flavor was good and the meat was moist. I ordered the Agnello (grilled lamb chops, braised lamb belly, yukon gold potatoes, taggiasca olives, meyer lemon). I ventured out on a limb here by ordering Lamb (I had planned on the rabbit but they did not offer it on the night we went) and I was not disappointed.
I’m not a dessert fan but everyone else seemed to enjoy everything they ordered. And I liked that they served Granite (flavored ice) to settle my stomach after eating entirely too much! A Voce – recommended for pasta, atmosphere and overall one of the top Italian restaurants I have been to in New York. Don’t get me wrong this will not offer an authentic Little Italy style meal but I thoroughly enjoyed the dining experience and would gladly return. Four/Five Stars.--DBlock