WHO TO TAKE: A DATE AFTER SEEING AN EXHIBIT AT MOMA OR YOUR CHOOSY FRIEND WHO LOVES TO BE PAMPERED BY ITALIAN FOOD AND CULTURE
After a tasting that took place in the private party room (see our review of the Best Luxury Wines and Spirits), I was intrigued by this sophisticated spot housed in two Beaux Arts townhouses on west 54th (formerly Aquavit and once home to a Rockefeller). I thought, why have I not come here before? It is the epitome of a NYC-Italian sophistication with exceptional Southern Italian dishes, all made with better ingredients. It’s one of those places that makes you feel at home and coddled, just like it would be in Italy.
The atmosphere is sleek, and sexy. Il Gattopardo means leopard in Italian, and it absolutely channels the energy of that beautiful animal. White tablecloths and classic caned chairs fill the dining area. I chose a seat in the bar room, which had a few tables and I was treated like a queen. Servers in white jackets emitted elegance in all their moves, whether pouring olive oil or presenting the wine. The food was just perfect, and slightly elevated from traditional Southern Italian fare, and came with a few surprises.
(photo at the top of this post) This is perhaps the most unusual way of serving octopus, sliced thinly, lengthwise. It was extremely tender, and served with oven-baked fingerling potatoes, celery hearts and Castelvetrano olives. Fantastic and light way to start the meal, especially with the extra-nice glass of Pinot Grigio. Mario Schiopetto Line Collio Pinot Grigio.
I love a table-side pour. Right, the Tronchetti pasta made with buckwheat was a dark pasta with earthy/nutty taste and texture. It was served in a shellfish ragú, a wonderful way to enjoy seafood. Light and flavorful.
The bar room, with signature leopard atop the bar. Right, a medley of choices in the bread basket.
I managed to leave a little room for dessert, as I was so enticed by this tropical combination (which I found out was inspired by the owner’s wife, who is Brazilian). The Coconut Mousse was layered with a passion fruit cream, and topped with fruit macedonia. Right, another leopard graces the bar room.
Il Gattopardo, 13-15 w 54th St (betw 5th/6th)