Autentico Italiano© by John Axelrod Contact

where to find the best italian food outside Italy

Culture and Cucina in the Big Apple

Cafe Fiorello (aka Fiorello's)

Let' s say you are attending the Met or the New York Philharmonic and Trattoria Dell'Arte is too far away. There is another autenticoitaliano restaurant a stone's throw away from Lincoln Center (or the Art House cinema.)

The address is ideal for pre or post concert dining, or for lunch, particularly for those who work at ASCAP, the performing rights society that licenses and collects royalties for the many composers whose works are performed across the street or at nearby Juilliard.

While the service is rambunctious and the menu over the top delicious, and while the antipasto bar is probably the biggest in New York, what with 32 vegetables and 12 seafood options, it is the atmosphere that is the unique selling point of this restaurant. If you are lucky enough to reserve "booth" seating, rather than table seating, you get to sit "diner style" at a booth with plaques and names on the walls of the many literary and musical illuminati who have graced the same table. Imagine eating where Kurt Masur, Alan Gilbert or Lorin Maazel ate, or where John Adams or Christopher Rouse might have dined before hearing their premiere?

Everything on the menu screams "Yum!" I adored the burrata platter with a full range of antipasto options. I could not have enough of the fried carciofi all guidea, so crispy on the outside and a soft heart on the inside. (Somehow the idea of Jewish style artichokes seemed consistent before hearing Itzhak Perlman play the violin at Alice Tully Hall). The Tagliatelle bolognese was totally authentic, with the right balance between meat and vegetables. It tasted more like a Tuscan butcher's pasta, only that it was veal in the ragu, not other meats. Finally, the Maine Lobster and seafood Fra Diavolo, a signature dish, was the right about of spice to make it both a secondi dish and a digestive all in one!

I remember eating there recently while making the "Summertime" video in New York. We could not stop eating, the food was so plentiful (almost Texas size portions!) and the wine kept flowing. It made for a beautiful mood while we filmed afterwards on the steps of Lincoln Center.

I love Fiorello's because it makes me feel a part of the New York Culture scene, close to the action, even if I am only visiting. But that feeling is enough, combined with an opera or concert, and a great memory, until I find myself back in Rome, in the old Jewish ghetto, at Nonna Betta, on via del Portico d' Ottavia , where the Carciofi all Giudea originated. Itzhak, we've come a long way, baby!

Cafe Fiorello
1900 Broadway  New York, NY 10023, United States
+1 212-595-5330