Don’t hate me because I went to Dona even before its official open on this magical Monday evening. I, restaurantgirl, had taken it upon myself, to wander selflessly from restaurant to restaurant, throwing myself at the mercy of chefs across the five boroughs, bravely risking bad service, an upset stomach, and weathering, well, the weather, all in search of the perfect dish so that you may never waste a meal again.
I happily sacrificed my Saturday night to give you a sneak peek at the restaurant formerly known as Bellini (Donatella Arpaia of david burke & donatella’s first born). Did you ever have that “go to guy” you could always count on for a good time, even though you knew he wasn’t “the one”? Bellini was mine. That is, until he decided to change his name, menu and wallpaper. I was ambivalent when rumors swirled that Bellini was shutting his doors to try and keep up with “the Joneses”. Though it had been closed for three weeks, I’d secretly been pining to see Bellini’s familiar face.
Talk about “Extreme Makeover: Restaurant Edition” — I thought maybe I was in the wrong place. A sleek modern lounge and black lacquered tables lured me into the bar for a donatini, a refreshing muddled
orange cocktail with Ciroc. After overhearing Michael Psilakis (of Onera) had moved into Dona’s kitchen, I thanked the Greek Gods above and headed straight for the dining room.
As I slid into a glamorous yellow banquette, I admired his playful zebra print rug and flashy wall of wines. He eased me in, slowly, with a freshly-baked olive brioche and a side of fresh ricotta sprinkled with olive oil.
(Poached Mussels with Italian cous cous)
Before I could even hunger for more, dona
surprised me with perfectly poached mussels dressed in an Italian couscous.
But when I saw cheese and fish starring in the same dish, I wondered if this so-called “three week renovation” didn’t include a
This scandalous menu had Page Six written all over it, jumping
feet first into the bowl.
(Crispy Baccala & Ricotta)
How much do I love being wrong? Let me count the ways. Dona brought
me to my knees with a baccala and ricotta so crispy I could barely find it in my heart to share. Was my mouth playing tricks on me? Could this really be the Eighth Great Wonder of the World or did I have one too many donatinis at the bar?
Now I was game for whatever he had to offer, so I plunged into the cold waters of the “Uncooked” section. But I’d eaten around and he would have to get up pretty early in the morning to razzle dazzle me with the catch of the day.
The gleaming orange marlin was so fresh I could cry. And to top it all
off — with an exquisite mozzarella. It was sheer genius. Who would
of dreamed? Michael Psilakis would be immortalized for his work…on my plate.
A deceptively simple yet sumptious yellowtail stood patiently in the wings until the marlin was done, but definitely not forgotten.
Greedy to taste everything dona had to offer, I adventured into an orgy of pastas. Lucky for him, I was too distracted by the rustic duck mezzaluna to notice an overly salted spaghetti with eggplant. But he had me at the butternut squash tortelli. Right there at the table, he took me to a place I’d never been — precious purses of savory-and-sweet squash, divinely drizzled with a brown sage butter sauce.
Seductively draped across a bed of firm asparagus, the roasted black cod accompanied by an elegant truffled egg salad was serious enough to consider monogamy. I was game for the lamb, but one way would have been enough. I preferred him grilled rare.
He finished me off with a rich white chocolate semifreddo that would make a white chocolate lover out anyone — yes, even me. Directly from the oven to my plate, a heavenly lemon souffle accompanied by a zesty lemon hazelnut gelato had me floating on cloud Dona. Unfortunately, I was too intoxicated with the fruits of his many vines to preserve their memory. That’s all that’s left of them. So I moved into Dona and we all lived happily ever after.
Actually, Donatella hopped on her Vespa and rode off down Third Avenue while Michael, the valiant soldier, victoriously marched off to bed, for tomorrow was another day and I would be hungry by morning.
RESTAURANT GIRL RANKS —
NEW GUY ON THE BLOCK: Dona
DONA IN TRANSLATION: the gift
THE TYPE: Elegant Modern European/Mediterranean
DON’T MISS: Crispy baccala & ricotta appetizer
DON’T BOTHER: Spaghetti
RESERVATIONS: Hurry up, before word gets out Open Table
$: 50 & UP (PRICEY)
Rated: G for great and for grownups with a playful side.
FINAL WORD: Who doesn’t love a gift!
208 E. 52nd St., nr. Third Ave. (212)308-0830
Until next thyme,