A Voce Columbus: Harmonious Italian
There are a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants in New York, so few when compared to the endless number of dining options in Manhattan itself. A Voce Columbus, the second installment to Missy Robbins’ A Voce story (the original sits pretty in Flatiron), is one of those few restaurants raised to glory by Michelin, and for good reason. Though strangely situated in the Time Warner Center, between the men’s floor of J. Crew and a Montmartre women’s clothing store, A Voce Columbus is simple and sophisticated, sports a beautiful view of Central Park, has service that runs like a well-oiled very expensive machine, and delivers truly flavorful Italian cuisine.
The Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle is doing what it can to make itself the neighborhood’s fine dining mecca. The third floor of what essentially amounts to a high-end mall is home to Landmarc, Bouchon Bakery, and A Voce; sky-high Asiate and the Stone Rose bar are set in the attached Mandarin Oriental hotel; the fourth floor houses epicurean powerhouses Per Se, Masa and Bar Masa, as well as Porter House New York. That’s a lot of very good eating for a shopping mall. A Voce Columbus itself is sleek and clean, decorated entirely in soothing taupes, creamy browns, and vibrant burnt oranges. The bar is set for eating at both lunch and dinner and is a surprisingly sexy spot for dining with someone special; it is intimate and luxurious, refined, a spot for rendez-vous and late meals. The main dining room is airy and bright, with buttery cream leather chairs, dominating plate glass windows looking over Columbus Circle and the leafy expanse of Central Park, elegant and simple table settings. The staff is everywhere and yet not at all intrusive, dressed smartly and impressively well-spoken.
Missy Robbins’ soulful Italian food is simultaneously uncomplicated and beautifully layered. Pasta dishes are built from the bottom up: textured and perfectly cooked noodles, high-quality and well-seasoned produce, top-notch olive oil, seasonal vegetables. The tagliatelle is a rich and deceptively complicated dish; pleasantly torn and ridged noodles, cooked al dente, are topped with tender white-meat chicken, bits of smooth chicken liver, generous shavings of black truffle, and thin shreds of Parmesan reggiano. The result? An incredibly decadent pasta dish that just tastes expensive. Oh yeah, did I mention that a sizable portion costs only $15? The squid ink orecchiette is both refreshing and luxurious, with just a hint of salty ocean brine and the clean buttery taste of fresh lobster; miniaturized Italian chickpeas and flakes of hard cheese add texture and earthiness.
Even something so simple as a brussel sprout side dish shines brightly with lemon juice, chili flakes, a bath of olive oil, and yet more Parmesan reggiano. The buds are giant, crunchy, savory and earthy, with a swift kick in the face of chili flakes (trust me, it’s actually a quite nice kick in the face). The antipasti options are traditional: buttery carne crudo, sardines spruced up with eggplant caponata, tender grilled calamari treated lovingly with a chili vinaigrette, roasted mushrooms. It’s pretty much impossible to go wrong if you’re a fan of all things Italian; Chef Robbins will win you over with her skilled seasoning, creative riffs and twists on classics, and beautifully selected products and produce. There is a deftness and a wisdom in how she builds dishes so they seem simple and yet are anything but.
In short, A Voce Columbus is excellent. The location is off-putting for some, especially those enamored with cutesy and cozy spots in the West Village (a class in which I normally squarely put myself), however its easy to forget the chain stores nearby when you’re staring at the tops of Central Parks trees, being waited on hand and foot by a friendly staff, and noshing on soul-satisfying haute Italian fare. Besides, most everyone needs an eat-your-heart-out consolation meal after blowing all that money at Williams-Sonoma, Hugo Boss, and Tourneau, right?
Perfect For: michelin star-stalker foodies, power lunches, dining solo at the bar, splurging without really splurging, taking your parents out, pre- or post-Lincoln Center entertainment eats