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Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Enlightened Traveler: Lasagna To Die For In New York

If the missus and I lived on New York's Upper Westside, we'd eat at Salumeria Rosi often. Make that very, very often.

It's our idea of the perfect neighborhood restaurant:
  • Casual and upscale at the same time
  • Reasonably priced
  • Terrific by-the-glass wine selection
  • Wide range of small plates, so we can order a little or a lot
  • Cozy, contemporary atmosphere
  • Friendly service
And did we mention that that the food is fantastico?

Salumi is the Italy's answer to charcuterie.* (Or maybe it's the other way around?) Salumeria Rosi's exquisite cured meats, sausages and other dishes are pretty close to what you'll find in the Old Country.

The Italian-trained Cesare Casella oversees the kitchen. While we've never dined at his two earlier New York restaurants, Maremma (now closed) and Beppe, both had undistinguished reputations. He seems to be hitting his stride with this latest incarnation.

Porchetta (oven roasted, spiced pork tenderloin), culatello (wine soaked proscuitto, rubbed with spices and massaged by hand), coppa (aged, salted pork collar) are just a few of about a dozen and a half housemade coldcuts on offer.

It's not all about meat, however. There are plenty of fresh salads, vegetable dishes, satisfying soups and delicate pastas, too.

Of these we especially recommend the Torta di Porri (an individual savory tart of leeks, pancetta and parmesan) and the very tasty Cavolini con Prosciutto (roasted brussels sprouts, prosciutto, garlic and red wine vinegar).

Not to be missed is their sensational lasagna. It starts with housemade pasta that is layered with pork and beef ragu and velvety béchamel sauce. Each portion is assembled, then cooked to order. What shows up at your table is lighter, more delicate, and more delicious than anything you've had before.

Except for the soups, portions are on the lighter side and range from about $4 to $8 per plate. While you can always stuff yourself if you choose, two can eat well on an assortment of six or seven dishes. (And as we say, if you're not very hungry, you can choose fewer dishes. Sweet!)

The restaurant offers an interesting selection of wines by the glass from small Italian producers of Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Dolectto, Neprica and other varietals and styles. All pair nicely with the food. At $10 to $16 per smallish serving, they seem to be not as good a value.

Soppressata (top); white anchovies on a bed of raddichio.
(Photos by Marc Whalen)

If you go, be sure to ask your server for food specials and wine selections not on the menu. They usually have several but don't make a point of volunteering them.

It should be abundantly clear by now that this isn't a checkered-table-cloth-and-chianti-bottles-hanging-from-the-ceiling kind of joint. The clever, dark, contemporary interior is the work of motion picture production designer Dante Ferretti, responsible for the later Fellini films and many Scorcese works. (Think Gangs of New York, The Age of Innocence, Casino, and the current Shutter Island).

According to chef Casella, a visit to the salumeria is considered an integral part of daily life for many Italians. Now that Salumeria Rosi is here, New Yorkers may feel the same.

After your meal, if it's a nice night, stroll to Lincoln Center to take in the water show at the new fountain and refurbished plaza. Or saunter a few blocks up Broadway to the bustling Fairway Market where you can browse the generously stocked aisles and pick up a few goodies for tomorrow night's dinner.

Salumeria Rosi is located at 283 Amsterdam Ave. (between 73rd and 74th Streets), (212) 877-4800

*The word salumi is not a misspelling or variant of salami. Salami is a specific type of salumi. But you knew this already!

    1 comment :

    1. This looks great. I remember too well how wonderful one can eat in New York. I would love to go to all those restaurants and snack bars and eat a little from all of your photos, but I am too far away. Thank you for this wonderful post. The first time that I saw fried salami. I always eat it cold. I will try to fry salami a little later today.