Dining bar at Ci Siamo.
Photo: Adam Friedlander
You really need a road map to find this place, ”someone mumbled at our table after making the long journey to the last business Danny Meyer, Ci Siamo – a journey that begins on an unnamed sidewalk in the city center. (Pro tip: If your Uber driver tries to get into the Lincoln Tunnel on your way to New Jersey, start yelling.) From there, you walk up to a featureless spot called Manhattan West Plaza at the back of which could be Hudson Yards, with its own freshly minted Whole Foods. When you get to the entrance, there are several more dark stairs to climb before you finally get to a serpentine dining room that features many famous Meyer touches – a long bar designed for eating and drinking; comfortable, albeit slightly generic decor (“Westchester Italian” as they say); and the usual multitude of eagerly smiling waiters and hosts (you can tell by the shining eyes on their firmly in place masks).
Like most owners of major restaurant brands over the past decade, Meyer has tended to pair up his new businesses (Marta, Porch, Manhattan) with awkward new locations all over town. Ci Siamo (translation: “Here we are”) is another, of course, but as soon as you are seated at your table, you have the impression that this one may be different from the others. The bar’s early drinks are excellent (a mocktail called the Tonio; the great vodka-based La Torcia; a classic Manhattan served with a sidecar in a glass of crushed ice), and the thin one-page menu is packed. with dishes from Meyer’s old Mediterranean playbook, many of them (bianca pizza topped with anchovies, cheese and onion pies, Roman and Neapolitan pasta dishes, roast chickens and sizzling Florentine steaks on a grill at the wood fire) seem to be delicious to eat.
Ci Siamo’s kitchen is run by Hillary Sterling (formerly of the excellent Vic’s down on Great Jones Street), a chef whose reputation speaks for itself and one of a long line of talented cooks that Meyer has recruited over the years, dating back to Michael Romano, at the start of the Union Square Cafe, and the young Tom Colicchio. Here, Sterling has at its disposal a state-of-the-art wood-fired oven and grill (using three kinds of wood – chestnut, maple and oak – one of the knowledgeable waiters told us), and the dishes that that come out tend to combine sophistication with a natural feel, fresh out of the oven. These included, at the start of our meal, sizzling bowls of turtleneck clams with fennel and Calabrian peppers; the aforementioned anchovy pizza, which the kitchen splashes with salsa verde; and large wheels of focaccia cooked in cast iron skillet.
“I think this might be one of the best things I’ve ever had,” said a guest as we inspected Sterling’s Onion Torta, a classic essay on the joys of umami flavors at old-fashioned Italian, which featured layers of caramelized onions. and two kinds of Pecorino (Romano and Toscano), all placed on a crusty crust. There were also hearty bowls of those delicate old braised beans from the COVID era (“shell beans”, for the record, topped with black olives and Parmigiano), and small hot balloons of Émilie’s specialty. Romagna, gnocco fritto. The hearty and almost too filling pasta bowls that I tasted had all their charms, but if you have to choose just two, try the Roman classic alla gricia (made here with rigatoni) and the cavatelli allo Scoglio (named after from the famous restaurant of the Amalfi Coast), which the cuisine folds with pieces of lobster, among others, and a touch of vermouth.
‘Celebrating the beauty of simplicity’ is the motto of Ci Siamo’s polished website, which is full of alluring imagery (iridescent cocktails, pasta smothered by guanciale, recently sizzling shutters of Florentine bistecca) that seem carefully crafted to appeal to New Yorkers. -Yorkis out of their apartments and back into the crowded dining rooms. The bistecca we sampled was expensive ($ 135), like all bisteccas these days, and also underwhelming, so call braised lamb instead, which is chopped into smoky, fatty nuggets and mixed with Brussels sprouts, or Sterling’s terrific pizza-sized version. of Milanese pork, which is served with lemon wedges and dressed in chunks of chopped parsley. The smoked swordfish was our table’s favorite seafood option, although the dish I couldn’t forget was the simple roast half-chicken, which the kitchen cooked on a bed of crushed Jerusalem artichokes and poured with generous portions. quantities of homemade schmaltz. .
This very good Danny Meyer establishment, badly located, is it a “gastronomic destination” in this nostalgic and pre-pandemic sense of the term? As long as Sterling is in the kitchen and you have the money to spend and the courage to find him, I would say yes, he is. As with many restaurants in the Union Square Hospitality Group, there were the usual well-chosen Italian wines to enjoy with dinner, and after the plates were cleared and dessert arrived, the usual cavalcade of frosted, home-made gelati. . Ice-savvy critics at my table preferred the creamy hazelnut-lemon ice cream with goat’s milk, but you can enjoy other delicacies – small bowls of “fire-roasted” figs; a rich chocolate budino sprinkled with smoked almonds; and a slice of creamy and tangy lemon pie drizzled with olive oil and topped with meringue – which you probably won’t find anywhere else in this weird and slightly soulless part of town.