One of the nicest parts about attending an event at Lincoln Center is the pleasure of eating at Cafe Fiorello . Cafe Fiorello is a wonderful Italian restaurant that has been in business across the street from Lincoln Center for 30 years.
The menu is huge. There are over 50 different antipasti alone. There are many Italian classics on the menu – really something for everyone.
When you first walk into the restaurant there is a seafood bar, with places to sit and eat and watch your dishes being made. The dining room is comfortable and warm, tables not too close together. Many small booths along the wall. Serving Spoon and Fork were lucky enough to sit in one of the small booths on the side of the main dining room. Because the booths are against the wall, no one bangs into one of the diners walking through the dining room.
The wine list is extensive and wonderful. Fork and Serving Spoon each tried the Vernaccia. Very light, Tuscan wine, crisp. Very yummy. With dessert, Fork had Moscato D’Asti with dessert – sweet, effervescent.
Fork and Serving Spoon had every intention of ordering from the Restaurant Week menu – we really did. It was a terrific menu. Three starters, three mains, yucky desserts. As an aside – the dessert is important too! So many Restaurant Week menus have really weak dessert courses. Why? Icecream is not a special dessert. But here, I digress.
Our server Curtis was terrific. Very enthusiastic about the menu, very knowledgeable about the ingredients, very accommodating, at ease, and friendly.
Although we were set for the Restaurant Week menu, once Curtis started to describe the special salad for the evening, our eyes started roving the regular menu – and that was that! Off to the regular menu we went!
For our starters we first ordered the special salad of the evening. A deconstructed salad that was mainly baby arugula with some field greens with a light, citrusy dressing. It needed to be light to stand up to, but not over-power, the peppery arugula and all the ingredients in the salad. There was a candied pear. Fork doesn’t think candied is necessarily the right word, but it was very sweet and was a nice contrast to the arugula. There were also chopped pickled beets, some sugared walnuts, halved grape tomatoes, a red currant gastrique, and a round of goat cheese that was lightly coated and fried. I know, I know, a lot of ingredients on the plate, but they all worked together so beautifully.
Our second starter was Cheese Fravioli. This can be ordered with two ravioli or four ravioli. Fork and Serving Spoon looked at each other, not wanting to be piggies, but thinking two ravioli would not be enough. Curtis to the rescue. He told us the ravioli were rather large, we should order two. And large they were. Each a four inch square. Fried and golden. Crisp on the outside, tender on the inside. The filling is Stracchino cheese. Stracchino is a mild cow’s milk cheese – said to come from the milk of tired cows (stracca meaning tired). It is said that milk from tired cows is richer in fats and more acidic. Fork doesn’t know about that, it was DARN GOOD! When you cut into the ravioli the cheese was soft and stringy, great flavor. But, if that isn’t enough for you, each ravioli was topped with slices of prosciutto. Holy McMoly. A few more of these and a gigantic salad and you would be set.
But of course we couldn’t just leave it at that!
Both Fork and Serving Spoon ordered the Sliced Prime Steak with Potato Fonduta. A beautiful 28 day dry aged steak. Nice sized portion. Cooked perfectly, seasoned beautifully. Now, some may think that would be enough, but oh, no. This steak was like butter (think Mike Meyers imitating Barbara Streisand here). Fork could have used a fork to cut through this steak. It literally melted in your mouth. Just amazing. Served along with the steak was a potato fonduta. Fork isn’t quite sure how to properly explain this to you all. It’s a potato pie, covered with melted cheese. Fonduta is a fondue. So Imagine a potato pie, slices of mushroom, nicely seasoned, covered in meted fontina and mozzarella. The texture is amazing. Potatoes were nice and firm, the mushrooms gave it a nice earthiness, and the cheese was not quite as liquidy as a fondue, slightly more solidified. So, so good! Just a little complaint – it might be nice to add a little vegetable to a plate – but at least in this case there was something on the plate besides the steak.
The really bad dessert choices on the Restaurant Week menu is what really pushed the envelope for Fork and Serving Spoon to switch menus. Cheesecake or icecream. Yuck.
Serving Spoon ordered the Cannoli Siciliani. What arrived were two beautifully plated cannoli. These were not what you automatically think about when the word cannoli is said. The shells were almond tuille. Very light and crispy. Nice almond flavor. The filling was made with ricotta cheese, but it was much drier than the usual cannoli filling. There were chocolate chips scattered throughout the cream. The cream wasn’t overly sweet. The cannoli were sitting in a pool of blueberry sauce. Blueberry sauce in February – now, you know these weren’t local and most likely frozen, but the sauce was still yummy. Scattered around the plate were sliced, toasted sugared almonds.
Fork ordered the Limoncello Tart. Before Fork starts – what is with the MINT? Do you see the tree in the middle of that tart slice? Why? Who eats it? Does it really look great? If you think your dessert can not stand on a plate without foliage, maybe your dessert needs some vavavoom of it’s own. A sugared mint leaf or two, okay, but this nearly required a machete along with a dessert fork. Thick, sweet, buttery graham cracker crust. Fork loves a good graham cracker crust – and this was a really good graham cracker crust. The tart crust was filled with luscious lemon curd. Tangy, citrusy, sweet, lemony, yummy. To make this even better, the lemon curd had a brulee top. Really! As you were putting your dessert fork into it, it cracked. Perfect topping for the tart. The caramel brulee, slightly burnt sugar taste was great against the tart, sweet lemon curd. There was a quenelle of whipped cream – could have been a little sweeter. And what is wrong with a dollop, what is with the ever present quenelle. Chefs are making quenelles out of everything. Enough already – so over the quenlle. At the side of the tart was a small pile of long, very thin lemon zest. Not sugared. Not candied. Just lemon zest. Why? Lose the herbage, make the whipped cream a dollop, and either lose or candy the lemon zest and this dessert would be stellar.
If you are going to Lincoln Center and need a fab place to eat, this is the place. Actually, if you need a dynamite place to eat this should be on your short list of choices!