Del Posto: The Archway to a Grander Age
Del Posto harkens back to a grander age, where elegant dining and formal service were the appreciated norm. Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Bastianich eschew the casual comfort food trend with this massive bastion of fine dining and sophistication on the edge of the Meatpacking District. The cavernous room is regal, imposing, and bold with creamy red and mahogany leather, marble tables, plumes of fresh flowers, a gorgeous parquet-style floor, a central marble staircase to the wrap-around upper level, and smooth dark wood accents everywhere. Everything about the space is grand, with no expense spared on details.
The hallmark of the entire experience was the service. Warm, knowledgeable and discreet, everyone from the busboys to the hostess to the head waiter to the sommelier impressed me with their dignity and politesse. The enormous staff was always nearby, yet never hovering nor interrupting.
The food is remarkably original, both traditional in technique and highly innovative in flavor. The extensive menu is daunting in that many words are unfamiliar to those not fluent in Italian foodstuffs, yet the food itself is accessibly tasty. Expect fresh and unusual vegetables, complex sauces, homemade pasta, and both classic and unusual cuts of meat. The cuisine is described as ‘trans-generational Italian’ and will blow your mind with its sophisticated complexity.
My party of 5 made the most of the diverse menu, ordering the roast autumn vegetables, carne crudo, and the vongole marinate to start, the pumpkin cappellaci, orecchiette, seared duck breast, roasted lamb rack, and grilled pork as mains, and the chocolate ricotta tortino, butterscotch semifreddo, and sorbet selection for dessert. The roast vegetables were flavorful, but not particularly memorable, occupying just a few small spaces on an abnormally large plate. The carne crudo was a shining star – presented like steak tartare but fresher and cleaner with truffled salsa and parmigiano-reggiano.
The main courses were simply and cleanly presented – no pomp and circumstance. The pumpkin cappellaci was hand molded and stuffed with pumpkin, truffles and dried sage. A sweet almond milk topped the dish, completing the decadent offering. The orrecchiette was the table’s favorite – fresh and doughy with savory lumps of seasoned lamb neck sausage and slightly bitter complementary strips of broccoli rabe. It definitely had the makings of a heart-warming favorite that I would love to replicate on my own time. The seared duck breast, spiced and aromatic, was perfectly cooked with a crispy fatty skin skimming the surface, creating a beautiful texture. The roasted lamb, paired with tail ragu, puttanesca sauce, and sauteed basil, was unusually flavored and complex, yet also cooked an ideal temperature so that it melted in your mouth. Lastly, the grilled pork was exactly how pork should be – tender yet slightly resistant, juicy, and paired with creamy savory sunchoke puree.
As in any proper Italian restaurant, the desserts were to die for. The chocolate ricotta tort defined decadence with alternating layers of moist chocolate cake and ricotta cheese and a generous dollop of creamy mild olive oil sorbet (don’t judge – this unusual concoction is absolutely marvelous). The butterscotch semifreddo was, well, very butterscotchy – and if you like butterscotch, you will love this, guaranteed. The sorbets were vibrantly colored and remarkably fresh and refreshing.
All in all, the food IS something to write home about – simple, elegant, unusual, surprising, accessible, tasty. Batali and Bastianich have produced here what could be called the pinnacle of Italian cuisine, as dressy as traditional French cuisine and as comfortable as traditional Italian dishes. Not to mention, the unbelievably generous kitchen kept sending out little gifts for the table to savor! Included were a trio of amuse bouches, cream-stuffed doughnut holes, chocolate treats, a full overstuffed bread and pastry basket, and boxed truffles to go.
Del Posto represents a rare and dying breed of culinary establishments in New York. The unabashed focus on luxe details, the fine art of tableside service, and sophisticated inventive cuisine sets Del Posto out from the crowd. Expect fancy; expect luxury; and most of all, expect pampering. A special occasions type of place or just somewhere to indulge in the grander things in life, Del Posto shines without being flashy and wows without spectacle.