Restaurant review

Lodi: New York Restaurant Review

The case of pastry in Lodi.
Photo: Adam Friedlander

In the spirit of this ever-changing and slightly unnerving COVID holiday season, Ignacio Mattos’ latest venture, called Lodi, which opened a few months ago at Rockefeller Center, seems like it was made for all occasions. possible. It’s an Italian espresso bar complete with whistling coffee machines and a polished white marble counter where you can sip an invigorating cup under your mask before stepping back into the cold. It’s also a patisserie and bakery that produces six comforting varieties of Italian bread starting at 8 a.m. There are eggs on toast for breakfast and a variety of take-out panini for lunch, and if you fancy a real sit-down meal you can dine al fresco overlooking the large Christmas tree or in the airy, enclosed terrazza, which is filled with tables covered in linen and set with shimmering silver, just like in the best cafes in Milan.

The terrazza is where I found myself sitting on my first visit, but not before browsing the shelves inside, which are stocked with fancy Italian pantry items (Tuscan honey, jars candied Sicilian oranges) and buy a small box of sweet palm tree-style cookies to take home for an after-dinner snack. There were ceiling-mounted heaters in this cozy little makeshift dining space, and waiters wore waist-length aprons, tied black ties and traditional Italian waiter jackets with pen lines in their pockets. “I feel like I’m on a movie set inside a movie set,” someone said as we watched the slightly surreal Rockefeller Center Christmas spectacle pass by the windows, with masked shoppers carrying bags of FAO Schwarz, rosy-cheeked ice cream – skaters making their way to the rink across the street and members of the Salvation Army dressed in red.

Mattos has dabbled in all sorts of flavors and cuisines during his career (Spanish cuisine in his flagship restaurant, Is she; seafood at the late Flora Bar; and Italian bistro at Altro Paradiso in Soho). But in this most traditional downtown setting (with the most traditional of downtown owners), he and his talented chef, Maxime Pradié, have produced a well-edited “all day” café menu, filled with refined classics, mainly from the northern regions of Italy. Before the first wave of antipasti arrived, we sampled ribbons of mortadella and 30-month-aged prosciutto di Parma and chewy slices of Gorgonzola with chestnut honey on the side. Then there were pates on small wheels of crostini and a decorative portion of Spanish anchovies laid out, with roasted peppers and butter on the side, like a fan on the plate.

The anchovies are designed to be spread with plenty of butter or olive oil on squares of focaccia and an assortment of other fresh breads which are brought to the table in silver baskets and replenished when supplies run out. I enjoyed the focaccia with prosciutto and dollops of the excellent homemade caponata and used it to mop up the soup of the day, a hearty Tuscan broth made with shredded cabbage, potatoes and, at the bottom bowl, prosciutto crumbs. There were also servings of hot butter beans tossed with pancetta and tomatoes in this round of antipasto, and a decent insalata di mare, although the dish I’ll be returning to the Rock Center for is the vitello tonnato that Pradié and its cooks prepare just as they do in the best establishments in Piedmont, with thin strips of pink veal, a light sprinkle of capers and a rich scoop of garlicky tuna mayonnaise on top.

Anchovies with peppers and butter.

Porchetta, the Friday special.

Pork sausage with turnips and mostarda.

Photographs of Adam Friedlander

Only four secondi-style entrees were available on the days I passed through Lodi (“praise” in Italian and the name of a town outside of Milan), but what the menu lacks in variety it makes up for in quality and his impeccable technique. Twenty-four bucks is a lot to pay for a single pork sausage, even these days, but you won’t find a better example of state-of-the-art Tuscan salsiccia making in this neighborhood, especially if you include dabs of poached turnips and sweet Cremona relish on the side. The giant-sized vegetarian at my table enthusiastically nudged the “involtino” cabbage-wrapped risotto, which was sprinkled with black truffles, and gobbled it down so quickly I’ve never tasted. The same almost happened with the brasato di manzo (fatty and tender braised beef) the night we ordered it, and with the house masterful porchetta, which is special on Fridays.

Chef Pradié is a Flora Bar veteran and cures his crisp porchetta in lots of fennel pollen, for the record, with the usual Tuscan spice blend; he gets his pork loin from famed pork supplier Tank Jackson in South Carolina. If you miss the seated Friday version, you can buy the porchetta panino to take out any day of the week and snack on it like I did a few days ago, while shopping for holiday gifts on the avenues . You can also take away a variety of pastries (polenta cake wedges, the multi-layer chocolate-hazelnut “torta Purgatorio”). However, the classic crème caramel is best enjoyed on the spot, as is the small mountain of gelato fior di latte, which is made to order for parties of two or more and brought to the table in double-sized frosted ice. -cut sundae, which appears to have been teleported directly from one of the holiday fantasy shows outside.

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