I have a crush on Le Zie, an Italian restaurant on Seventh Ave in Chelsea that is very easy to just pass by without stopping. The slightly shabby orange awning and ordinary look from the outside had me skeptical of what lay waiting within. However, the food and atmosphere were surprisingly fresh, light, and elegant.
Sprawling, with a patio, main dining room, lounge/bar, atrium, and back garden, Le Zie is shockingly expansive with a room for every mood. The patio is cramped but wonderful for people-watching on Seventh Avenue. The main dining room is classic with white tablecloths, while the atrium features soaring ceilings and flickering candlelight. The lounge opens onto 20th street and features custom Italian-design sofas, dark cherry wood, and a bustling bar. The back garden is perfect for a date with a lush greenery, a bubbling fountain, and curling vines. Hip, seductive, and sophisticated, no matter where you are in Le Zie, you feel as though you’re being pampered.
The food is surprisingly good. I had, incorrectly, written it off as a Chelsea Restaurant Row spot serving average Italian cuisine (mostly because of the hideous orange awning). However, the menu was so full of delicious-sounding dishes, I couldn’t decide what to get. Ultimately because of the sticky New York heat, I opted for two light appetizers while my friend and her mother split a salad and a substantial pasta plate. The theme is Venetian, focusing on seasonal flavors, fresh salads, innovative pasta plates, and antipasti.
My baked goat cheese in tomato sauce was sinfully good, served with fresh Italian bread. The slightly spicy tomato sauce off-set well the rich goat cheese flavors. I also opted for the watermelon salad special served with arugula, feta cheese, and a light balsamic dressing. In short, this was the epitome of refreshing. Everything was slightly sweet and slightly savory, while also being incredibly light. I also nibbled on my companions’ Ricotta and Spinach Tortelli. Served in a brown butter and sage sauce, this meal can easily serve two because of its density and richness. However, all of the flavors were fresh enough to not weigh down the meal.
The space is big enough to easily accommodate large groups and the back rooms provide the privacy ideal for a date. The lounge area offers a great place to sit back and relax with a cocktail, or a glass of wine off their 200-bottle wine list. Conveniently located in Chelsea, Le Zie could also be a great central place to meet friends for a quick (or leisurely!) meal.
All in all, Le Zie was a marvelous surprise (I think I’ve probably made this clear by the inordinate number of times I’ve said surprise or surprisingly in this post). Stuck in a neighborhood where restaurants are either well-known hotspots or terribly average ethnic joints, Le Zie rises above, producing refreshing Venetian cuisine.