Uptown’s the New Downtown This Fall
Occasion: Meet the Parents, Family Affair, Salumi To-Go
Start With: Roast Beef Carpaccio
Don’t Miss: Orecchiette With Sausage & Broccoli Rabe
Finish With: Fuji Apple Tart
What’s with the sudden restaurant migration to the Upper East Side? First, the guys from The Lion made the trek uptown to open The Crown last year, then came Il Mulino’s recent fall, “red sauce” debut and now Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto. Except Salumeria Rosi didn’t exactly move uptown. Instead, partner and chef Cesare Casella made his way across Central Park from the West Side to open a second Salumeria Rosi outpost, a partnership with Parmacotto meat purveyors. A veteran of the New York dining scene, Cesare Casella’s cooked all over this city; first at Beppe in Gramercy, then Tuscan “Cowboy Italian” at the short-lived Maremma in the West Village, and of course, Salumeria Rosi on the Upper West Side.
When I think of Madison Avenue just above 72nd street, I don’t exactly think of a vibrant dining scene, and I live uptown so I can say things like that. It’s more like a restaurant Siberia with pricey places, like Bella Blu and Nicola’s, willing to cater to notoriously picky uptowners. (Well, it’s true.) Salumeria Rosi isn’t exactly a refuge for picky eaters or carbophobics. A good chunk of the menu, which is much bigger than its West Side sibling, is pasta, salumi and meats. (The pasta special the night I visited was Braised Goat Agnolotti, not exactly a populist pasta dish.) So you can’t help but wonder why he’d make the move to that part of town, especially when you learn there’s a church 200 feet away and no chance of a liquor license, just wine, beer and surprising selection of sake. (Apparently, the chef has a thing for sake.) And yet, I couldn’t get a prime time table at the new East Side location for nearly two weeks. The neighborhood has quickly taken to its new neighbor.
Salumeria’s John Dory Mia Acquapazza
The new Salumeria Rosi looks nothing like the West Side location. This one’s bigger and fancier, bedecked in dramatic shades of red, black and white. The space is pimped out by an Oscar winning designer named Dante Ferretti, who conjured up Ancient Rome, trimmed with Italian frescoes and statues. There’s rosemary sprigs tucked into each napkin and warm, sliced focaccia bread on each table. Like the flagship restaurant on the West Side, there’s an upfront market with a long glass counter, filled with top-notch salumi, imported olives and cheeses that you can order to your table or take to-go. It seems almost appropriate that you’d find this caliber of finely aged meats and carefully sourced cheeses on Madison Avenue. You ever want to plop down in a store and start eating? This is the place to do it (and it will be much easier to do just that when they open for lunch in November).
“We’re the youngest people here,” my dining partner whispered to me as we scanned the dining room. While the crowd is undeniably older and old school, the food is exciting and excellent. Instead of the all small plates menu you’ll find at the West Side locale, this Salumeria Rosi’s got a healthy selection of entree-sized dishes, including a rosemary-scented Pork Chop, Mixed Seafood over Cous Cous and Braised Veal. There’s even a Cauliflower Steak over Riso Veniero (black rice) for vegetarians and plenty of veggie-centric sides. In fact, one of my favorite dishes was an appetizer of Cauliflower Soup topped with black olive and sturgeon roe, which the server reminded us (several times) had no cream or butter at all. I suspect it was a healthy dose of olive oil that gave it such a luscious mouthfeel. Lest I forget Casella’s Roast Beef Carpaccio! What arrives at the table are beautifully rare, satiny ribbons of beef anointed with petal thin shavings of mushrooms and aged Parmigiano Reggiano, Maldon Sea salt, and an ingenious and slightly spicy drizzle of harissa oil. It’s the kind of dish I could make a weekly habit out of, if only it weren’t so difficult to snag a table.
Salumeria Rosi’s Apple Tart
Then came the Orecchiette Pasta, cooked perfectly al dente, and mingled with a meaty mix of Broccoli Rabe, Sausage, and Pecorino. While most dishes at the West Side eatery are outright rich and heavy, there is plenty of lighter fare here, like the “Mia AcquaPazza,” a filet of John Dory steeped in a fragrant, but subtle, ginger-thyme broth. Ooh and don’t forget to order a side of Cesare’s signature, Tuscan fries, golden, crispy and anointed with fried herbs, the likes of rosemary and sage.
While I can barely remember the desserts at the original location, I can’t get the desserts at the new Salumeria Rosi out of my mind. The pastry chef, Mina Pizarro, worked at Sho and Per Se before landing in this kitchen. I wouldn’t be surprised if she won a “Best New Chef” In Food & Wine or was nominated for a James Beard for her work at Salumeria Rosi this fall. There wasn’t a clunker in the bunch. We sampled a flurry of sweets, including a silky smooth Gianduja (chocolate and hazelnut) Mousse with a crunchy bottom. That’s the just the beginning of this deliciously complicated dessert. The whole thing gets topped off with candied hazelnuts, a splash of balsamic to offset some of the sweetness, a dollop of Fior De Latte Gelato, fresh sprigs of tarragon and grapeseed oil — a brilliantly balanced dessert. There’s a Vanilla PannaCotta arranged with Braised Pineapple and Black Pepper Biscotti, and my favorite of all, an Apple Tart, which sounds much simpler and less exciting than it was! Let’s start at the top of this dreamy dish: There’s Fuji Apple “Pearls,” streusel and a Fuji Apple Sorbet that should be sold by the pint. Beneath that lies dewy, freshly baked apples and a Taleggio Cheese Custard, then of course, the crust. Could uptown be the new downtown this fall? It’s food for thought.