Donatella: This Glamazon Knows How to Cook
Donatella is the newest cog in celebrity chef Donatella Arpaia’s ever-expanding empire. With a starring role on the Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef, frequent judging gigs on Iron Chef America, a shmancy new cookbook, a beloved meatball stand, and now Donatella, Arpaia and her PR team are busy people. Very busy people.
Glittering on an otherwise pedestrian block of 8th avenue in Chelsea, Donatella is sleek. Tucked into a deceptively small storefront, the trendy pizzeria seems to expand backwards, growing from a charming bar area to an almost cavernous and luminous back room. Soft golden light showers everything in a flattering glow, from the chic and youthful clientele to the pristine oversized black-and-white ‘vintage’ maps of Italy lining the walls to the good-looking and always smiling all-male staff, contemporary racks of wine bottles curving around the bar, and shiny honey-colored floor. Donatella blends charming rusticity with Arpaia’s now recognizably shimmering and fashionable New York aesthetic (undoubtedly artfully created by her publicity team).
With a menu completely developed and prepared by Donatella herself, the rustic and soulful Italian food is nothing lifechanging, but it is hearty, warm, and damn tasty. The neapolitan pizza is well-made with an addictive chewy, fluffy and slightly charred crust and fresh fillings (the spicy sausage and mozzarella Diavola is the best) that are gooey in the center of the pie. It is so good that even my pizza-averse boyfriend couldn’t stop eating the leftovers. The pasta is thick and satisfying, with big, bold and delicious flavors; the paccheri, a square hollow pasta topped with tender braised beef and stewing in a savory onion sauce, is a must-have, and the lasagna wows with thin layers of pasta topped with a hearty sausage tomato sauce. Don’t expect fireworks from Arpaia’s traditional Italian comfort food, but if you’re looking for something that’s just going to taste good, keep you warm inside, and satisfy, Donatella delivers.
Perhaps what’s most fun about Donatella is that Arpaia herself is invested heavily in this venture as the executive chef and part-time hostess. In towering gladiator heels, the glamazon herself manned the hostess stand, escorting diners to their tables and accepting recommendations for improvements. You’d think with such panache and celebrity, the restaurant would risk being overwrought and overrated, yet instead, it simply sparkles.
Perfect For: little fried bites and cocktails, pizza fanatics, date night, ladies night, celebrity sightings, Food Network fans, bar snacks, out and about in the gayborhood