Tuesday, March 23, 2010

SD26: The Best Italian Food in New York?

Get Ready... Tony and Marisa Will Knock Your Socks Off

The City of New York never ceases to amaze me.

As a food blogger, I have convinced myself that I am somewhat of a “super foodie” when it comes to restaurants. I eat out a lot, talk to people about where they are going… and pretend to have the inside scoop on just about everything. Of course, I know only a fraction of what is happening in this monstrous food scene, but I try not to blow my cover. I am a New York food blogger, you know.

And then there are those nights when you get to go somewhere new, with new friends… and have an experience that is so delicious and authentic, you want to run home and start typing your blog entry on your cell phone in the cab. Glorious.

Last night was this night for me… as I was the invited guest to a dinner at SD26, Tony and Marisa May’s spectacular Italian hotspot on Madison Square Park. Yes, that Tony May… and yes, this is the next incarnation of San Domenica.

Although critics have panned their new space as being a tad eclectic for their fare, I found the room hip and well designed. This isn’t your quintessential NYC restaurant space… there is actually room to move around here… in the bar and in the dining room. A welcome change. Add a very cool wine by the glass cove inside the front window, and you have something unique and special.

As for the restaurant and their staff…. well they treat you as if you are a guest in their house. Even on a nasty, rainy Monday evening, Tony and Marisa were in the dining room, attending to everyone. And for a nasty, rainy Monday night… they had a great crowd.

Which leads me to the food.

Wow. The food.

Very hard to compare SD26 to the likes of Babbo, Lupa, Felidia, etc… because it’s just not the same. Those who have loved San Domenico for years on Central Park won’t be disappointed…. the classics remain. However, with the new space comes updated dishes as well as a few new preparations from Chef Odette Fada who so carefully prepares each dish with such steady, confident hands. The love of this cuisine shines through in brilliant fashion… and the message in all of it, channeled though Tony May is loud and clear. “We know what we are doing.”

And they do. The house specialty, “Uovo” soft egg yolk filled ravioli with truffled butter is an out of body experience. Filled with creamy ricotta and a perfect egg yolk, this dish was the perfect start to a tasting menu that was nothing short of incredible.

Next, another special ravioli made its way to our table, this time in a group of three. These delicate dumplings were filled with braised beef and topped with caramelized onions and lighted sautéed in brown butter. Now things were getting serious.

Main dishes were next up, and didn’t disappoint. As the table had dishes that included lamb chops, braised beef cheeks, venison loin and grilled tuna, I had the pan roasted whole Dover sole… and was blown away. I have always been a fan of sole as I love mild, white fish… but this preparation was so close to a classic Louisiana trout meuniere, I had to contain my enthusiasm. The fish had been pan roasted whole and filleted from the bone, and sauced with brown butter, parsley and lemon (this is fish perfection for me). One splash of veal demi glace and I swear I would have been transported to Baton Rouge where this dish reigns supreme.

Dessert soon followed and wowed the table. Decadent Tiramisu, a polenta with caramelized pears, a perfect pannacotta, a hazelnut bar that I had a dream about last night and an apple crostata..

The verdict? Well, I once thought that my friends at Da Umberto had the most authentic Italian restaurant in New York… but I now have to seriously rethink this. The kitchen at SD26 is talented. Their wares are homemade… and it shows. They cut no corners… and you can taste the difference. Truth be told, this is one of the best Italian restaurants in New York. Period.

So enjoy your trip to SD26….spring weather is almost here, and what could be better to top off a lovely midtown walk than a plate of handmade pasta in tomato sauce with a glass of Brunello?

You’re right. Nothing.


19 East 26th Street
New York, NY 10010-1404
(212) 265-5959