Burrata with Truffles
What’s a Frenchman doing cooking Italian food in Chelsea? That’s what I wondered the first time I ventured to Laurent Tourondel’s newly minted and already mobbed eatery, L’Amico. Yes, Tourondel has proved himself a talent where American cooking is concerned, particularly in the steakhouse genre, adding a distinctly French touch to American classics at BLT Steak, LT Burger & Arlington Club. But a proper pizza and pasta bolognese? To be honest, I had my doubts.
But I had no idea Tourondel grew up with an Italian grandmother who taught him a thing or two about her native cooking, which has to be the reason the pizzas at L’Amico are so bubbly and finely charred. My favorite of the Neapolitan-style pies here is the Soppressata Piccante, paved with a tangy tomato sauce, oodles of oregano, mozzarella, and a particularly feisty salami. While there are several pies to choose from, the Picante is the only red pie on the roster. If you’re down with a tomato sauce-less rendition, consider an intensely earthy Mushroom Pie with truffle paste, sage, fontina and taleggio cheese.
Scallops, Brussels Sprouts & Bucatini with Meatballs
It’s a tad too easy to fill up on carbs here, so you’ll have to pick and choose your battles carefully, but the Smoked Ricotta Gnudi, simply dressed in brown butter and capped with freshly shaved Truffles, is one you’ll want to fight. And speaking of truffles, don’t leave without trying the Burrata with fresh truffles and balsamic caramelized onions. (It’s every bit as luxurious and divine as it sounds!) A great litmus test for any Italian restaurant worth its weight is meatballs, of course, and Tourondel’s are shockingly good; a tasty mix of veal and pork cooked in their wood burning oven.
Roasted Autumn Vegetables
There are plenty of great dishes to sample at L’Amico, including a Crostini topped with a melange of peekytoe crab, celery root, and apples as well as the Brussel Sprouts & Salsify Salad, a fine nod to autumn, spackled with hazelnuts, nubs of pancetta, and onions. For mains, I’d go for the moist Roast Orata, anointed with a zippy, Calabrian chili verde, which takes your garden variety white fish up a few, flavorful notches, or the Scallops poised on a rosemary-scented puddle of apple puree along with sunchokes and an addictive scattering of salty capers. If you’re in the mood for meat, try the spiced Duck Breast with Farro and a zippy Quince Mostarda. Lest I forget a very good side of Charred Cauliflower with pecorino and capers to pair with whatever you choose.
Not everything is perfect at L’Amico, like an unexciting piece of Black Bass with muddy mashed potatoes, and a Bucatini with Duck Meatballs that arrived at the table oddly cold (not how you want your pasta), but those were my only gripes and the pleasures far outweigh those two minor missteps I encountered over two visits, which is not bad at all.
While L’Amico is not located in the most scenic part of town (tucked inside the Eventi Hotel on a traffic-riddled Sixth Avenue between 29th & 30th Streets), this buzzy spot is fashionably outfitted with oodles of reclaimed wood wall paneling, gorgeous, graphic tile flooring, and an open kitchen, replete with not one but two copper-clad, wood-burning ovens. More importantly, Laurent Tourondel seems reinvigorated by his chic, new digs and Italian-inspired menu (slightly reminiscent of Michael White’s fall foray into French cooking at Vaucluse).
Frozen Meyer Lemon
The desserts are appealing, though I’d focus my efforts on the homespun Gelatos and Sorbetti section, particularly a supremely creamy Pumpkin Spice Gelato and Pistachio-Orange Marmalade. But my favorite dessert is the Frozen Meyer Lemon, which is exactly that; a frozen lemon stuffed with wild blueberry and meringue-topped Meyer Lemon Gelato – a zippy & all-out refreshing combination of flavors & textures. For chocolate lovers, the Chocolate Barretta layered with hazelnut caramel and a Cinnamon Milk Gelato will do the trick.
L’Amico is a notable addition to fall’s food scene and it’s nice to see that Laurent Tourondel can still manage to turn out inspired, new concepts after all these years.