Modern Italian cuisine bears little resemblance to the heavy pastas and tomato-drenched sauces of yore. Like modern American cuisine, it is focused on presenting locally sourced, organically grown food in a manner that is healthy, delicious, light and gorgeously presented.
Interior of Restaurant and Garden
Dopo East’s inspired young chef, Patrizio D’Andrea, is a practitioner of new Italian cuisine. He operates out of a pleasantly appointed East Side town house with a backyard garden (open in warm weather) and lovely art on the walls from the Artioli Findlay Gallery. Based on a recently enjoyed tasting menu, courtesy of the restaurant, D’Andrea is a major talent. His food – with a few exceptions – is stunning.
Piovra alla Griglia
Bottle of Nozzole 2010
The night we dined was brutally cold, so we were delighted to be served a small cup of “Welcome Broth,” a delicious chicken and veal consommé that hit the spot. This unexpected and gracious gesture set the tone for the evening’s refined pleasures.
We began with the restaurant’s excellent Caprese ($14), an artfully composed red-white-and-green “still life” comprised of peeled organic tomatoes, basil sprouts, fresh Buffalo mozzarella kept warm and reformed to bring out its flavor, and balsamic vinegar in the form of caviar eggs.
It was followed by one of the knock-out dishes of the evening, Piovra alla Griglia ($18), an interlocked orb of grilled Portuguese octopus – firm and meaty — baby artichokes, cherry tomatoes, Peruvian potatoes, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and a touch of lime. Light, delicious, complex in taste and texture, as well as beautiful to behold, this dish is nothing short of amazing.
To accompany the meal, we chose, from the ample Italian wine list, a Nozzole Chianti Classico Riserva ($56), which paired well with our dinner.
Crudo del Giorno: Avocado & Alaskan King Crab
Risotto del Giorno: Porcini Risotto with Shrimp
Our next two Tasting courses were Daily Specials, one a miss, the other a hit. The Crudo del Giorno. or seafood special, ($18), consisted of Alaskan King Crab on a dollop of avocado, topped with an orange segment and radish. Though the dish gets an A+ for presentation, it was the least successful effort of the evening – the avocado bland and the fish fairly tasteless. However, the Porcini Risotto ($24) was superb, a mix of mushroom-infused Carnaroli rice (a medium-grained rice from the north of Italy, traditionally used for making risotto), and meaty Mayan shrimp. My companion particularly liked the firm but tender shrimp and I the Carnaroli rice, cooked al dente, richly redolent of Porcini mushrooms.
Ravioli di mais
Filetto di agnella alla griglia
Branzino in padella
Next came two superb dishes, each quite different from what I expected. The Ravioli di mais ($24) consisted of two large pillows of corn flour ravioli stuffed with sheep milk ricotta cheese, topped by a silky black truffle sauce. The ravioli were both dense, due to the corn flour, and light, due to the filling, and I could have lapped up many more.
The hands-down best dish of the night was the Filetto di agnello alla griglia ($33). The chef’s artfully composed medallions of grilled lamb tenderloin – topped with microgreens – accompanied by Chanterelle mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and new potatoes resting on a pool of reduced lamb sauce and horseradish yogurt, summed up everything that is exceptional about Chef d’Andrea’s food: the finest organic ingredients, perfectly prepared, beautifully presented, pared down to their refined essence. Each bite was perfect.
By contrast, the pan seared sea bass filet, Branzino in padella ($29) with corn, turnips and almonds gremolada, was serviceable but not great. For whatever reason, the fish dishes that evening, though beautifully plated, were not the chef’s strong suit.
Torta de Ricotta
However, the desserts were marvels of delicacy, a fitting ending to the meal. Although you may think Tiramisu is an Italian cliché and nothing to get excited about, think again. D’Andrea’s bears no relationship to any Tiramisu I’ve ever tasted. His version, Tiramisu del’Est ($11), a house specialty, with a dusting of dark chocolate powder, resembles a French patisserie, and is truly exceptional. Equally delicious is his Torta de Ricotta ($11), topped with blueberries and a raspberry coulis. It’s a kind of tone poem to the lightest of light cheesecakes and melted in my mouth. Have them both and decide which one you prefer – if you can.
Chef Patrizio d’Andrea
Chef d’Andrea looks like a young punk rocker out of Saturday Night Live and cooks like a highly sophisticated and experienced chef. Originally from Florence, inspired by his mother’s farm kitchen and the family agro-tourism business, a graduate of the Aurelio Saffi Culinary School, he has already spent time in the kitchens of Cipriani restaurants from Venice and Hong Kong to New York. Now, his personal artistry and vision are on display at Dopo East. Do yourself a favor and experience it for yourself.
Photos by Eleanor Foa Dienstag
Dopo East Ristorante Italiano
345 East 62nd Street (Between 1st and 2nd Aveues)
Tuesday thru Saturday day: 5PM to 11; Sunday: 5PM to 10PM; Closed Mondays