Ci Siamo: New York Restaurant Review

Dining bar at Ci Siamo.
Photo: Adam Friedlander

You really need a roadmap to find this place,” someone mumbled at our table after making the long drive to Danny Meyer’s latest business, Ci Siamo – a journey that begins on a sidewalk. unnamed downtown. (Pro tip: If your Uber driver is trying to head into the Lincoln Tunnel toward New Jersey, start yelling.) From there, you climb to a featureless spot called Manhattan West Plaza at the back of this which could be Hudson Yards, with its own freshly minted whole foods. When you arrive at the entrance, there are several more dark stairs to climb before arriving, finally, in a serpentine dining room which features many of Meyer’s famous touches – a long bar designed for eating and drinking; cozy, if slightly generic, decor (“Westchester Italian” is how one wag put it); and the usual crowd of eagerly smiling waiters and hosts (you can tell by the glowing eyes on their well-placed masks).

Like most big-name restaurant owners over the past decade, Meyer has tended to associate his new ventures (Marta, Porchlight, Manhatta) with troublesome new real estate locations all over town. Ci Siamo (translation: “We are there”) is another, of course, even if as soon as you sit down at your table, you have the impression that this one may be different from the others. The bar’s first drinks are excellent (a mocktail called the Tonio; the tall, vodka-based La Torcia; a classic Manhattan served with a sidecar in a glass of crushed ice), and the thin, one-page menu is filled with dishes from Meyer’s old Mediterranean playbook, many of them (pizza bianca topped with anchovies, cheese and onion tarts, Roman and Neapolitan pasta dishes, roast chickens and Florentine beef steaks sizzled on a grill in the wood fire) seem to be delicious to eat.

Ci Siamo’s kitchen is run by Hillary Sterling (formerly of the excellent Vic’s down on Great Jones Street), a chef whose reputation speaks for itself and is part of a long line of talented cooks whom Meyer has recruited over the years, dating back to Michael Romano, at the start of the Union Square Cafe, and young Tom Colicchio. Sterling has a state-of-the-art wood-fired oven and grill here (using three types of wood – chestnut, maple and oak – one of the knowledgeable waiters told us), and the dishes that come out tend to combine sophistication with a natural oven-fresh feel. These included, at the start of our meal, steaming bowls of small-necked clams tasting fennel and Calabrian chiles; the aforementioned anchovy pizza, which the kitchen splashes with salsa verde; and big wheels of focaccia cooked in cast iron skillets.

Cavatelli hello Scoglio.

Photographs of Adam Friedlander

“I think this might be one of the best things I’ve ever eaten,” a guest says as we inspect Sterling’s onion torta, a classic dissertation on the joys of umami flavors old-fashioned Italian style, which featured layers of caramelized onions. and two kinds of Pecorino (Romano and Toscano), all layered on a crumbly pastry crust. There were also hearty bowls of that old COVID-era braised bean treat (“beans to shell,” for the record, jazzed up with black olives and Parmesan cheese), and small hot balls of the specialty gnocco fritto d ‘Emilia-Romagna. The hearty and almost over-the-top bowls of pasta I sampled all had their charm, but if you have to choose just two, try the Roman classic alla gricia (made here with rigatoni) and the cavatelli allo Scoglio (named from the famous restaurant on the Amalfi Coast), which the kitchen folds with pieces of lobster, among other things, and a touch of vermouth.

“Celebrating the beauty of simplicity” is the motto of Ci Siamo’s polished website, which is full of alluring imagery (iridescent cocktails, guanciale-smothered pastas, newly sizzled flaps of Florentine bistecca) that seem carefully crafted to entice New- Yorkers out of their apartments and back into crowded dining halls. The bistecca we sampled was expensive ($135), like all bistecca these days, and also underwhelming, so call for braised lamb instead, which is chopped into smoky, fatty nuggets and tossed with Brussels sprouts. , or Sterling’s terrific pizza version. Milanese pork, which is served with lemon wedges and dressed with torn pieces of parsley. Smoked swordfish was our table’s favorite seafood option, although the dish I couldn’t get out of my mind was the simple roast half-chicken, which the kitchen cooks on a bed of crushed Jerusalem artichokes and pours with generous amounts of homemade schmaltz. .

Is this very good Danny Meyer establishment, poorly located, a “gastronomic destination” in this nostalgic and pre-pandemic sense of the term? As long as Sterling is in the kitchen and you have the money to spend and the guts to find it, I’d say yes, it is. As at many Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants, there were the usual well-chosen Italian wines to enjoy with dinner, and after the plates were cleared and dessert arrived, the usual cavalcade of frosted homemade gelati. The ice cream savvy critics at my table preferred the hazelnut and smooth lemon ice cream made with goat’s milk, though you can enjoy other delicacies — small bowls of ‘fireplace roasted’ figs; a rich chocolate budino sprinkled with smoked almonds; and a slice of smooth, tangy lemon pie drizzled with olive oil and topped with meringue – which you’re unlikely to find anywhere else in this odd, slightly soulless part of town.

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