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Friday, May 27, 2011

Peachy Picks Il Gattopardo

The Leopard, Il Gattopardo and Gianfranco's, oh my!
Dorothy Gale might have been saying lions and tigers and bears, oh my!, but we think she was missing one VERY important animal.
And that is Il Gattopardo.  We love it no matter what language...
Il Gattopardo was first featured in Tasty Tidbits:

You know we like Il Gattopardo's little brother, The Leopard at Des Artistes:
and you know Il Gattopardo is Italian for The Leopard, so how could we help but love it?  We loved it just as much if not more!!!  The Florida room with the glass ceiling in the back was just perfect to kick off summer with and every morsel of every course melted in our mouth.  

GIANFRANCO and PAULA SORRENTINO certainly have an all-around winner nestled between fifth and sixth on 54th and though it may be narrow and downstairs, the width and depth of the menu and the total all-around quality are top-shelf.  Paula does the flowers here as well as at The Leopard.
Freddy Mendez was a total peach all night and his attention to detail and overall care were fabulous.  Captain Luigi Cozzolino, from Naples, has dazzled guests at Il Gattopardo for three years with his excellence in hospitality.  The evening began with some lovely prosecco-Vino Spumanti Brut il Sogno and along with five star appetizers, it was a fireworks start to a lovely night.  We began with the mouthwatering burrata over toasted bread, a special appetizer of the night:
Parmigiana of zucchini with smoked mozzarella, fresh tomato and herbs were an extravaganza of bliss that hit the spot:
...all we can say at this stage is we were HOOKED and we hope you'll be able to keep your computer screen clean while you are dialing up Il Gattopardo for your reservation tonight...

Sauteed Adriatic cuttlefish and baby artichokes with fresh lemon was next in this hit parade, and in all of our reviews we must say we've never tried cuttlefish has a delightful mildly chewy texture and this dish was so refreshing.

We also tried beef and veal meatballs wrapped in savory cabbage leaves with thyme sauce and crispy salad that totally hit the spot.  Who knew meatballs could be such a delicacy?!   ...

You absolutely could make a meal on the appetizers- they were THAT extraordinary.
We sipped on an outstanding rose that is not on the menu yet, but has earned its place.  The Donnaluna 2009 was totally refreshing and so appropriate as we swing into summer.  Il Gattopardo earns huge points for their creativity and unique menu selections, as we found something else we've never had before at Luigi's suggestion: Paccheri pasta with "Genovese" sauce...pork ribs are braised in white onions for 5 or 6 hours...and then after you eat it you will fall asleep and dream about it for 5 or 6 hours.
We challenge you all to find a better Dover Sole in Manhattan, simply because we don't think you'll find one better.  Every morsel of flaky moist texturized sole thrilled us that we were talking about the kind you eat-although Peachy Deegan did in fact get soles in the form of shoes from Italy by Anna Capri that we'll tell you about later that are equally outstanding.  But we did not want to eat them.  
The meal was sublime, the dessert a grand finale and the atmosphere and level of service were totally high caliber.

Don't listen to just Peachy alone however!  The esteemed panel raves:

My dinner at Il Gattopardo last night was more than delicious--it was like a trip to the home of friends in Italy whose sole desire is to delight you with their favorite dishes while embracing you with warmth and affection. For starters, served with an Italian rose from Lake Cuomo, which was dry and crisp, we had burrata (creamy mozzarella) served in radicchio with prosciutto--(the cheese melted in your mouth and was wonderful with the prosciutto); beef and veal meatballs wrapped in savory cabbage leave with thyme sauce ( a hearty house specialty--very tasty);sauteed Adriatic cuttlefish (much like calamari); parmigiana of zucchini with smoked mozzarella (Fantastic); and eggplant and buffalo ricotta cakes with tomato sauce (very good).

While it is hard to choose a favorite, mine was the parmigiana of zucchini, which was incredibly wonderful.   W
e also had a most unusual pasta dish--paccheri pasta with Genovese sauce. This dish is historical. It is composed of onions cooked for hours until they caramelize and pork cooked until it falls off the bone. It was made in Genoa and from there transported to Naples. Hence the name "Geneovese" sauce. The pasta too is very different--thick cubes to which the wonderful sauce clings. The overall taste is extraordinary. For the main course we had Dover sole-which was sublime--tender, melt in your mouth perfection. Our wine was a white wine from Naples--very dry, which went marvelously with the fish. Not to mention the desserts Warm soft chocolate cake--(with molten chocolate inside) and a tarte of pistachio from Bronte, both served with vanilla ice cream. YUM. The ambiance was enhanced by our table located in the rear of the restaurant, set under a glass ceiling with a view of the sky and flanked by spring flowers. The waiters were warm and friendly and eager to please. You could see they loved the food they were serving and they cared about making you happy. A dinner at Gattopardo is truly special. I highly recommend it!
Step into Il Gattopardo, which takes up the first floor of a townhouse on West 54th St., and you’ll feel as if you’re stepping into a trattoria in Naples. Bite into one of the savory dishes there, and you’ll swear you’ve been transported to Naples! Classic, authentic Neopolitan fare is the star of the show here, and star it does, thanks to the efforts of owner Gianfranco Sorrentino and executive chef Vito Gnazzo. The décor of the restaurant is simple and chic, and the service is friendly and attentive, which allows diners to relax and simply enjoy the food – which is very easy to do here! Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by captain Luigi, a Naples native, who showed us to a lovely corner table in the enclosed garden area at the back of the restaurant. Our waiter, Freddy, brought us prosecco and a basket overflowing with bread and crispy, peppery breadsticks to enjoy as we looked over the menu, and consequently, we were half in love with the restaurant before ordering a thing! At Freddy’s recommendation, we ordered a variety of appetizers to share, so that we could all get a sense of the range of the offerings. We decided upon the parmigiana of zucchini, the beef and veal meatballs, the sautéed Adriatic cuttlefish, the eggplant & buffalo ricotta cakes, and one of the day’s specials, burrata served with prosciutto and cherry tomatoes. I’d be hard pressed to select a favorite, as each was delectable in its own right. The burrata was creamy and fresh, and beautifully paired with the prosciutto and cherry tomatoes. The parmigiana of zucchini was topped with browned smoked mozzarella and was absolutely divine. The beef and veal meatballs were wrapped in cabbage leaves and served in a thyme sauce. The cabbage leaves kept the meatballs tender and moist, and added extra flavor to the already delicious dish. The cuttlefish, served with baby artichoke and fresh lemon, was beautifully prepared and a refreshing alternative to calimari, and the ricotta cakes, served with a spicy tomato sauce, were to die for! Next up was the pasta course, for which we selected the paccheri pasta with “Genovese” sauce. This was highly recommended by Luigi, who said it’s one of his favorite items on the menu. Once we tasted it, we knew why! The “Genovese” sauce is a ragu made from pork ribs braised with white onions for five hours, and it’s served over the al dente paccheri pasta (a large, tube-shaped pasta that is quite common in Naples). The meat in the ragu was so tender it nearly melted in our mouths, and the pasta was the perfect accompaniment. For our main course, Luigi recommended the Dover sole, and once again, he steered us well! Soft, delicate and tender, with its signature light, sweet taste, this was the best fish I’ve had in recent memory. For dessert, I opted for the cassata, which is a traditional Sicilian dessert, but one that’s not often seen on Manhattan menus. A light, sweet, creamy blend of ricotta cheese with candied fruits, topped with marzipan, it was a heavenly end to an outstanding meal. Overall, an exceptional dining experience – Il Gattopardo gets the highest of recommendations from this panelist! 

IL GATTOPARDO is committed to producing top quality gastronomy, to the use of fresh and well-researched ingredients, and to keeping the tradition of Italian culture vibrant and passionate. Named after the 1963 classic Italian film, “The Leopard”, starring Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinale, and directed by the legendary filmmaker Luchino Visconti, Il Gattopardo serves traditional Southern Italian comfort food that has been adapted for the contemporary palate without compromising the authenticity of the cuisine, which became a must to its loyal upscale New Yorker clientele.
Located in a ground floor of a townhouse in the heart of Manhattan, the sixty-seat restaurant and the twenty-seat garden was restored by the architecture firm of Terrence Riley, Keenan/Riley, Former Chief Curator of the Architecture and Design Department of The Museum of Modern Art of New York, where the restaurateur Gianfranco Sorrentino ran the entire food operation, by Sette MoMA Restaurant, in that Museum for nearly ten years.
Originally from Naples, Italy, GIANFRANCO SORRENTINO carries over 30 years of experience in restaurant management, some of these include Quisitana Hotel in Capri, Dorchester Hotel in London, Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo, Bice Restaurant in New York, Sette MoMA Restaurant at The Museum of Modern Art of New York, and Union Bar and Grill in Great Barrington, MA. In September 2001 he opened IL GATTOPARDO, just across the street from MoMA, along with his wifePAULA BOLLA SORRENTINO, and his talented Executive Chef Vito Gnazzo
Born and raised in the town of Salerno, Amalfi Coast in Italy, VITO GNAZZO began his culinary career at the three Michelin Star restaurant Antica Osteria del Ponte, in Milan. In 1981 Mr. Gnazzo immigrated to United States to work as Head Chef at one of the best restaurants in the state of California, Il Rex. In 1993 he moved to New York and became Executive Chef at Sette MoMA, where he meet the restaurateur Gianfranco Sorrentino.

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