all’onda has been breathlessly heralded as one of the biggest projected openings of the year, from the moment signage went up at the two-story space on East 13th Street. And while New York is hardly lacking in excellent Italian options, chef Chris Jaeckle (of Ai Fiori), and veteran restaurateur Chris Cannon (Michael White’s former business partner) know a thing or two about the cuisine, and this is Venetian-inspired. Which is likely why crowds have descended thick and fast upon the long delayed but recently opened eatery, crowding the downstairs bar for tasty cocktails, like the “All’onda Spritz” (made with Cappelletti Aperitivo instead of Campari, a ruby-red cordial that’s only just become available in the U.S.), and ascending the curved staircase to dine in wood-paneled booths or graceful, padded banquettes.
Jaeckle and Cannon originally indicated that Risotto would be at the heart of their menu (the name “all’onda” refers to the waves formed by a soupy style of risotto, a popular Venetian version). And while the island city’s culinary influence is greatly felt among a wide range of menu options, there’s ironically only one risotto on the menu — Risotto Nero — stained with Sepia, flavored with Bottarga and interspersed with leaves of charred Radicchio.
Unsurprisingly, there are a variety of sharable small plates, followed by exquisite forkfuls of pastas, not exactly intended to suffice as a main course. So work your way through the menu and share amongst friends; and if you can gather together dining companions with a singular obsession for Uni, all the better.
The love-it-or-hate it Sea Urchin (we happen to love it!) appears in multiple guises. In fact, it’s possible to construct a multi-course meal entirely around uni, if you so desire. Start with a Chichetti (Venetian bar snack) of Squid Ink Arancini; eat it in one bite to get the full flavor contrast provided by the whole, briny nibble of Urchin sitting on top of the warm, crusty rice ball. Smoked Uni lends an umami, oceanic quality to a delicious Breadcrumb-Sprinkled Bucatini, and Sea Urchin is more a welcome playmate than aggressive headliner in an unctuously creamy Polenta, which forms a seafood-scented bed for a hunk of flaky, meaty Monkfish.
Not that you need to fully embrace Uni in order to truly appreciate all’onda. Jaeckle’s forte is handmade pasta — from twisty, nubby Garganelli tangled up with Peekytoe Crab to shell-shaped Lumache with Duck Ragu and unexpected Chocolate to silken Tortellini in Dashi with Tomato Oil. Your tablemates will just have to forgive you if you can’t bring yourself to share.