Dinner at Del Posto
A few weeks ago, my friend Reg and I were talking about restaurants and food and I mentioned that I’d really been wanting to go to the very high-end Batali/Bastianich owned Del Posto. Imagine my happiness when Reg said that she’d been really wanting to go there as well!
Being typical, non-wealthy New York City folk, it wasn’t something we could both afford to do very often, but we decided to treat ourselves to a fancy shmancy dinner and booked a reservation for an early Sunday dinner.
We were seated at a table facing out towards the front room of the restaurant. The whole place is very classy – dark wood and rich tones. The staff are all impeccably dressed and look more like business people than wait staff. Our table had throw pillows – cushioned back support. Insanity.
We ordered two Bellinis to start and before placing our food order, we were presented with a selection of amuse-bouches. I, unfortunately, cannot remember the exact description of all of them, but clockwise from the top left, we had: a delicious gazpacho rimmed with spices, a smoked salmon salad with chips, and some sort of magic coated with fried polenta.
Each of these was delicious, though my friend found the gazpacho to be a bit salty for her own personal taste. We cleaned our plates (minus the gazpacho for Reg) and our exceptionally friendly and informative waitress came to take our order.
There were so many things on this menu that I wanted to try, but I know my own budget, and I also know how much I love Italian desserts, so I limited myself to the salad and pasta section. Reg opted for Fried Calamari and a pasta dish so we’d be able to share. In the meantime, the servers brought some fresh bread to the table, along with two small spreads – sweet cream butter and lardo.
Yes, at Del Posto, you can eat your bread with spreadable pig fat… and it is fabulous. AND, if you finish it, they bring refills! (I’m assuming that finishing any portion of lardo is ill advised, however, if you think about it, how often are you going to eat it? We told ourselves it was okay. Just this once.) The bread selection was also lovely – there was an roll with Kalamata olives that was to die for, and I feel it should be noted: I do not like olives.
Our appetizers arrived not too long after the order was placed. My salad, the Insalata Primavera Della Terra, looked like a piece of artwork. Everything was so colorful and fresh that you could smell the crispness coming off of it.
The calamari was, perhaps, the freshest I’ve ever had. Reg described it as “literally popping in your mouth.” This was an apt description. The spice and capers were a terrific addition to the overall flavor. The salad was incredible – tasted just as fresh as it looked. The Sheep’s Milk Ricotta dressing was hidden in little caves created by the different sections of greens, adding a nice surprise to each bite.
We took our time savoring the flavors and enjoying the ambiance. The servers politely cleared our plates away to make room for the pastas which were soon to be arriving.
Reg had selected the Orecchiette with Lamb Shoulder Sausage, Crispy Morels & Minted Soybeans. After much deliberation and some input from our server, I had finally settled on the Ricotta Pansoti with Wild Asparagus & Black Truffles. Our server (I keep calling her that because somehow “waitress” seems so inappropriate… she was dressed like the President!), described the dishes to us, including the fact that all pastas are handmade and stuffed on the premises, daily. Believe me when I say: You can taste it.
Both pastas were flavored to perfection. True to his word, Batali’s pasta dishes focus on the pasta and not the sauce, allowing you to truly enjoy the flavor of the pasta and accompaniments. The sauce is used sparingly to add, to enhance, and to decorate, but not to drown. The lamb sausage was perfectly seasoned and the minted soybeans added a refreshing flavor to the dish. The pansoti was absolutely delicious, and the ricotta filling was light and filling at the same time.
We’d heard that the portions at Del Posto were small and disappointing, but found neither of those opinions to be true. Of course, if you’re used to something like a never-ending pasta bowl at Olive Garden, and can actually eat more than one bowl, you’re going to be disappointed. In true Italian fashion, Del Posto has a Primi and Secondi menu selection. In my trips to Italy, I have found that restaurants list their pasta and risotto dishes as the “Primi” or first course, which is a small (but not tiny, by any means) serving of a pasta dish. The main course, or “Secondi” is generally a more substantial meat, poultry, or fish selection. This is reflected in both the serving size and the cost. Personally, I’m full by the time I finish a pasta dish of any size, and so that generally becomes my main course. For those curious folk, we did see plenty of “Secondi” plates coming out to the other tables, and they were not small, in any sense of the word. If I ever have the good fortune of returning to Del Posto, I full intend to try the duck.
We had no room for the second course… but we did save room for dessert! Reg selected a Chocolate Ricotta Tortino with Toasted Sicilian Pistachios and Extra Virgin Olive Oil Gelato. Having tasted Olive Oil gelato at Batali’s Otto restaurant, I knew this was a good choice. There were so many incredibly amazing options on this menu, but as soon as I saw the word “Tartufo,” I knew what I was getting. I’m a sucker for tartufo. I went with the Tartufo al Caffe with Dark Chocolate, Sant’Eustachio Coffee, and Candied Lemon.
Being a New Yorker and a middle-class Jew, I’m used to both semi-high-end, family style Italian restaurants and small cafes in Little Italy. Tartufo is my dessert of choice at most family dinners, and I’m accustomed to vanilla and chocolate ice cream in a hard chocolate shell with a frozen maraschino cherry and some almond in the middle. The only time this has ever been different was when I visited the island of Burano in Venice in 2008. I ordered tartufo at a small Osteria (after eating the other best calamari I’ve ever had in my life) and was surprised when I received a powdered truffle covered serving of chocolate gelato.
Imagine my surprise (and delight!) when my tartufo arrived and was the same truffle covered type of creation I’d had in my favorite city in the world. Unlike the American-Italian versions I’m used to, this tartufo was filled with creamy coffee flavored gelato. It wasn’t pounded into a perfect snowball shape, but kind of blobby and misshapen, adorned with candied lemon and drizzled with chocolate. Both desserts were delectable.
When the last drops and crumbs were gone from our plates, the servers came and lifted them away. After asking if we’d like anything else, they presented us with our bill and a complimentary selection of cookies (yum!). I’ve never been so impressed with a bill before. It goes to the high class nature of the place, I suppose, but the bill is printed on restaurant letterhead, with cursive type, and folded like an invoice.
The total bill, for the two of us, was actually not nearly as bad as we’d feared. This is not to say it wasn’t high – but that was expected. The meal and experience were well worth the price.
Our server, continuing with her informative streak, let us know that if we checked out the Facebook page for Del Posto, we’d be able to watch videos of the chefs making the fresh pasta. She also told us that Del Posto has one of the greenest kitchens in the city – the rice oil that they use to fry the calamari is also used to power Joe Bastianich’s truck! On our way out, the Maître d’ chatted with us for a bit, asking us if we enjoyed our meals, where we’d traveled from, etc. He was very friendly and gave us each a box of two chocolate truffles before bidding us farewell.
Overall, I think Del Posto was an excellent choice for a fine dining experience. I recommend it to anyone who appreciates good food, good service, and an upscale atmosphere. Of course, it’s not an everyday, or even every week… or even every month kind of treat, but once in a blue, everyone should treat themselves to something nice, and this was a very nice treat.