Double Dose of Espresso and Lunch at A Voce!

For those of you who have been loyal readers (and I thank you for that), I told you that I’m eating out in four different restaurants on the Winter Restaurant Week. Today’s reservation is at A Voce. More on that later.

I started the morning with a latte at Café Grumpy. Those of you who are familiar with this place, it’s actually from Greenpoint, Brooklyn. However, recently I read from New York Magazine the past week that it just opened in Chelsea. Since I love espresso and coffee, I have to try it.

The odd thing about this place is the block that it’s located. I mean, the entire street is parked with the local residents’ cars and police vehicles (the precinct is a few doors down). The photo below will explain what I mean.
The interior is nice. One side of the café has the exposed brick wall, while the opposite has photos and artwork that is pleasing and it’s dimly lit. One half of the café is the coffee/espresso bar and the other half is seating (about 6 tables). It’s really a casual, relaxed vibe you feel once you enter here.
I ordered a latte ($3.25 as listed on their menu).

It’s actually pretty good…but I had better. In my opinion, I like Joe’s latte more but for the real espresso, I love Sicaffe. The problem with Sicaffe is that it’s in the Upper East Side of Manhattan and I don’t go there often. Somehow with Grumpy’s latte, it’s a little bit too milky.


After my latte break, I went up to Madison Avenue to meet with my friend, Giulia for lunch at A Voce.

We were actually half an hour earlier than my 11:45 reservation, so we killed some time wandering around the neighborhood, browsing at some stores or just walk around to keep ourselves warm (since it’s technically 34 degrees Fahrenheit outside; not including wind chill).

We came back to the restaurant about three minutes before they technically open and I stated my name for the reservation. We were seated and were given the menu.

The place actually feels casual yet upscale. The seating is interesting. The seats along the walls are plush benches and the seats opposite it are cushioned swivel chairs (but in a good, comfortable way). The host and hostess were friendly; our waiter and servers were amicable and attentive. I like it here even before the ordering the food!

I know it was a far stretch that the renowned duck meatballs would be on the Restaurant Week (I’ll refer to it as RW, from now on) prix fixe menu (it’s actually on the a la carte menu. Drats!). To tell you honestly, their RW menu isn’t so bad: four choices for appetizers, four main courses, and three desserts. I’ve seen far more fewer (and worse) choices per course in my past years dining during RW.

After a few minutes, our waiter came back to take our orders. So, I had the Ravioli Fagiole, “My Grandmother’s Meat Ravioli” (That’s the name; I’m not making it up. I don’t even have an Italian grandmother. It’s actually referring to Chef Andrew Carmellini’s grandma), and for dessert Chocolate something. As for the chocolate dessert, I forgot to write down the name so um, to save myself from a misnomer (and use the general term “something”) I’ll just describe it to you later on. Giulia ordered the Crispy Calamari Salad, Marinated Chicken Alla Griglia, and a Citrus Tiramisu. She wanted a chocolate dessert (she’s a chocoholic like I am) but since I ordered it, she intentionally ordered a different dessert for variety.

After our orders were taken, the bread tray was brought to our table.It’s slices of really good cibatta bread with a dipping bowl of olive oil with drops of balsamic vinegar and flecks of chili flakes. The bread reminds me of Sullivan Street Bakery’s cibatta: a perfectly thin, crisp crust with a spongy, chewy crumb. It’s wonderful with the olive oil dip: rich, fruity olive oil mixed with the sweet, slightly acidic vinegar; it’s hard to stop eating the darn bread! We had to control ourselves before we just ruin our appetite.

Then came our appetizers: my ravioli fagiole
and Giulia’s crispy calamari salad.
I totally have forgotten that fagiole is a bean soup. Being a foodie of sorts, it’s a shame to my knowledge or just overlooking that fact. Generally I do not like beans. The exceptions are peas, string beans, red adzuki beans (in paste form only; I do not like the tong sui, the sweet dessert soup) and black beans (in relation to Asian food). But being the fastidious bean eater that I am, I like this soup. It is thick, rich, and creamy that it warms your body from the frigid cold that is just outside. The ravioli is a nice contrast to the soup in ways that it is filled with ricotta cheese, which gives it a nice tang that differs from the earthy flavors of the bean soup.

Giulia’s calamari salad is actually done very well. The calamari (known as squid) is done just perfectly. It is just chewy enough that it does not have the texture of a rubber tire. The vinaigrette is a great addition to the salad and the calamari.

Our main course:
Giulia’s Marinated Chicken Alla Griglia

and my “Grandmother’s Meat Ravioli.”

When the server and set our food, all I saw was Giulia’s All-Clad pan of chicken and lots of foam! Giulia’s chicken was (as you can see) served in a stainless steel All-Clad cassoulet pan. She gave me a piece of her chicken and when I tasted it, it was perfectly cooked and well seasoned. I do not know what that foam tasted like, since the piece she gave me was devoid of foam. The other accouterments that accompanied her dish or pan, are potatoes and onions covered in pesto. She seemed satisfied with her chicken.

My “grandmother’s” ravioli was plated simply in a deep white bowl with a chunky tomato sauce with a sprinkling of chiffonade basil and Parmesan cheese. This deceptively simple plating actually let the ravioli’s ingredients speak for themselves: the eggy pasta that enrobed the meat filling, consisting of beef, pork and veal. It is really delicious. Even it has gotten the approval from Giulia. She isn’t a big meat eater but she does enjoy a good ravioli.

And finally, dessert!
Giulia’s citrus tiramisu
and my chocolate dessert.

We first tried my dessert. I’m still kicking myself for not taking notes of the names of the plates and the menus online does not have it. *sighs* Anyways, the chocolate cake is dense and not moist but it has a caramel center to impart some moisture and walnuts on the bottom of the cake. A slight left of this photo, there are some cooked banana slices that tasted like it was flambéed since it had that soft zing in the end after we ate a banana slice with a nice crunchy exterior from the browning. To the far left, the banana ice cream. Even though it is a small quenelle, it is packed with lots of banana flavor. It just immediately screams “banana!” once it hits the tongue. It is also mixed in with walnuts that gives it a nice bitter contrast as well as a chocolate wafer cookie bottom that gives it a textural counterpoint.

Another view of my dessert

Giulia’s citrus tiramisu looks deceivingly creamy and heavy but it is actually light and refreshing. Look at the photo below to see the airiness of this dessert.

As I just stated, there’s an ethereal lightness to this dessert that was truly unexpected for this dessert, in a traditional sense. Usually, it would be a mixture of marscapone cheese enriched with zabaglione (an egg custard) layered with espresso-soaked ladyfingers. This is basically a lighter reinterpretation that is executed well. I concur with Giulia saying that “this would be a palate cleanser” since there is grapefruit in the bottom of the dessert glass, as you will see the photo below.

I really enjoy eating at this restaurant. Unfortunately, being a student does not help the fact that I can eat here all the time.

After we paid the check. Giulia wanted some really great espresso (hence the title’s mention of a double dose of espresso). I recommended Sicaffe. We took the subway uptown and had the Cappuccino Triestino ($3.64 for a doppio size). I did not take a photo of the drink since I’ve written about it a month or so ago but if you insist on seeing it, click here and scroll down the page to refresh your memory. Giulia liked this drink but she did not have the stomach capacity to finish it since we have our stomachs filled with a three course meal. Oh well. Next time when we hang out, she’ll finish one.

Today was really enjoyable. Good food and someone to eat with me. I just wish it was warmer…

Cafe Grumpy
224 W 20th Street (bet. 7th & 8th Avenue)
New York, NY

A Voce
41 Madison Avenue (off 26th Street)
New York, NY

Sicaffe
964 Lexington Avenue (between 70th & 71st Street)
New York, NY



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