Anyone who’s been to New York City in recent months will tell you the same thing. Now that Manhattan has fully reopened, the dining scene there has really exploded. It’s not there are more restaurants there than there used to be. After all, it is Manhattan! But there are now high-end and high-concept restaurants seemingly everywhere, even in neighborhoods where, historically, the dining options were limited to chain casual spots, mom-and-pop coffee shops, and the ubiquitous bagel, pizza, and Asian places.
One neighborhood that really surprised during my recent visit to the city was the Upper Westside. Back when a young wine blogger lived there (that would be me, btw), the area was well known for its gourmet food shops and its smoked fish places and classic delicatessens.
But aside from the occasional kosher steakhouse, there really weren’t many options for fine dining.
Today, that corner of the city is brimming and bustling with all kinds of new restaurants and bars.
And lo and behold, on Amsterdam in the low 90s, there is a temple of Italian dining on a block where once only white fish and pizza were available.
Lucciola is possibly the best new Italian restaurant in the U.S. right now. I would put it up there with Frasca in Boulder, Vetri in Philadelphia, Felix in Venice (Los Angeles), and Marisi in La Jolla (San Diego), among my top places to eat Italian and pseudo-Italian this year.
Of course, Lucciola is thoroughbred Italian: Chef Michele Massari and wine director Alberto Ghezzi both hail from Emilia. While their pasta offering reflects their origins (the micro-tortellini were one of the best pastas that I ate this year), their overarching menu is filled with creative yet traditionally mindful recipes.
One thing that impressed me especially was their focus on the authenticity and extremely high quality of the food products they use. Even a cursory look at their menu reveals that nearly every dish is created using — for lack of a better word — “heirloom” food products. Their “AAA Pinsa,” a flatbread topped with cured seafood, is such a great example of this. It’s the first entry, a signature, if you will. What was even more exciting was listening to Alberto explain each of the dishes and their components.
This focus on products and the balance between tradition and creativity are what prompt me to say that when you dine at Lucciola, you experience the “future” of Italian cuisine. This is the paradigm, imho, that will shape Italian cookery for our generation and that of our children. And it’s all happening in the place I would expect the least.
What a great experience. I can’t recommend it highly enough. And I couldn’t be more proud or thrilled that Amistà is featured on their list.