Saturday, March 26, 2011

Scalini Fedeli Review

Tribeca's Scalini Fedeli is what I'd consider a hidden gem in New York City. It's not the high-end Italian restaurant that spills from people's mouths. It's not an "it" place, somewhere of the moment; it's been open for more than a decade. There are clearly plenty of people in the know, though —it will require advance reservations to get in on a busy Saturday night.

What you get during your $65 three-course prix fixe dinner is worth more than you'll pay for it. And if my word isn't enough, consider that when The New York Times reviewed it in 1999, the same meal cost just $5 less.

Seated in this warm room with vaulted ceilings and stained glass, you'll have an intensely satisfying experience, all the trappings of a fancy meal. You'll get to choose from a dozen or more options for  appetizers and entrees, and so many of them seem intriguing that the decision will be tough. There will be extras and the bread service keeps the slices coming — you'll definitely welcome several pieces and would be wise to try the cranberry walnut.

The amuse bouche we received was a mushroom and black truffle raviolo in a cream sauce. A large one-bite starter, but so delicious that you'll want to eat the cream like soup and sop up the rest with bread.

The pappardelle in a game sauce with venison and hare finished with Barolo wine and bitter chocolate is a good choice if you're looking for something a little different. But you must like the flavor of wild meats because it comes on strong.

Though chicken can be a bit boring, don't be afraid to order the pan roasted chicken breast if it's what you're in the mood for. It's wonderfully tender and comes with Italian sausage in a rosemary and garlic sauce served over broccoil rabe and orrechiette pasta.

I had many dining companions on this evening and everything at the table seemed to be met with delight. But the one dish that really stood out was the lightly pounded parmigiano crusted rib pork chop with an artichoke, prosciutto and arugula salad in a galric and sage jus. Everyone who tried a bite wanted another. The pork was thin and crispy and salty in a way that drew you back in for more. 

After the entrees, two flavors of sorbet were offered as palate cleansers and in an old-school Italian way, one flavor was set in front of all the women and the other for the men.

When it came time for dessert, we received one more than we had ordered. And the chef came out to let us know that he had offered it to us as a way to make up for one person's entree being served minutes after the rest. That's sharp service.

Though the dessert list consisted of several traditional dishes, they each had a bit of a twist. And all of the ones we had were excellent.

Warm doughnuts with ricotta cheese and four sauces.

Pistachio ice cream served on a wafer.

Warm caramelized apple tart in a baked phyllo crust with brown sugar crumble and cinnamon gelato.

Orange-infused cannollicini filled with a lemon and lime cream served over vanilla-roasted pineapple.

Mascarpone cheesecake on a gingersnap crust with tangerine sorbet and blood orange sauce.

The chocolate painted phyllo napoleon with chocolate mousse, fresh cream, warm raspberries and vanilla ice cream was my favorite.

As we prepared to leave the restaurant, I asked about my leftovers, which had not yet arrived at the table. Moments later, a manager arrived to explain that somehow they'd lost track of it in the kitchen and that they would like us to wait five minutes as they were preparing the entire dish again for us. It was an incredibly gracious way to make up for their mistake. When it was brought out, the chef came to apologize again.

The restaurant was busy and hectic through the evening and the service wasn't always on top of everything immediately. But the efforts they made to make up for that were touches so impressive that we left feeling as though we had received superior service, only adding to the overall value of our meal.

Scalini Fedeli is on par with some of the best, more well-known restaurants in the city that charge at least $20 more for similar experiences. So if you're looking for something special that is slightly more affordable, Scalini Fedeli is your restaurant.

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