It’s been three years since I ate at Del Posto. Back then, it was still considered an ambitious restaurant with its grand space with an enoteca, a sort of bar/lounge space that’s considered the casual portion of the restaurant, co-owned by superstar chefs Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich, and her son, Joseph Bastianich. In winter 2009, Del Posto renovated the space to get rid of the enoteca and make it as luxurious as the dining room itself with a greater ambition to get the coveted 4-star rating from the NY Times.
Since then, I haven’t been to Del Posto as my eyes (and stomach) shifted to other places I haven’t eaten yet. A good friend of mine, Dr. Y has expressed interest to eat here before he leaves New York City back to his home state of sunny California in a few months.
As we entered the sumptuous lobby, the host greeted us and took us directly to our table. Sitting down on the plush cushioned banquette, I looked at the entire dining room: dark mahogany wood contrasted with lemon yellow walls and touches of marble. Heavy drapes on the windows to hide the bright afternoon sun on a hot July day. Carpeted floors to hush the footsteps of servers and diners as they walk on by.
After ordering, the waiter bestowed us with amuse bouches of tomato gazpacho rimmed with caper salt, goat cheese balls rolled in a spinach and course breadcrumb mixture, and salmon mousse sandwiched between Parmesan chips. Of the three, the most interesting was the zesty gazpacho that has a briny spunk from the capers. I did enjoy the texture contrast of the goat cheese ball from crunchy, buttery exterior melds with the creamy, mild goat cheese.
Then bread service arrived. A basketful of demi baguettes, grissini, olive rolls, and foccacia with the two spreadable, delectable lipids: butter and lardo. As I’ve stated back three years ago, I would still eat their bread basket and be happy with these two for the entire day. The bread was made in house and served piping warm that the crusts were crackly crisp. The butter and lardo were served at room temperature that they were a dream to spread with. Dr. Y had lardo for the first time and was pretty surprised as to how delicious it was (and appreciated the spicy bite from the black pepper).
For my first course (or antipasti), I had the warm cotechino with Umbrian lentil vinaigrette and dried fruit mostarda. The housemade sausage was dense, marbled with a good amount of fat and well seasoned. The use of having earthy lentils contrasted with tart dried fruits and vinaigrette was a good idea to brighten up the dish.
Dr. Y’s insalata primavera della terra was a beautiful, abstract salad of the day’s market vegetables of zucchini, pencil-thin asparagus stalks, tomato, sugar snap pea, artichoke heart, pumpernickel bread crumbs, microgreens, and edible flowers. It’s light and refreshing with hearty, earthy bites from the pumpernickel and the artichoke.
Progressing onto the main course, Dr. Y opted for the garganelli verdi al ragu bolognese. I had this particular dish back then and tasting his dish, it’s as good as I remembered it. Their pasta was made from scratch, using the spinach juice to get the dark green, almost black color on the dough. The pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente and the ragu was delectable as ever.
My bowl of whole wheat tonnarelli with spicy cicerchie, fried rosemary & shaved bonito was something that’s atypical to the standard bowl of pasta. The pasta is made with something similar to the chitarra, then cooked to al dente in a broth made with spicy chickpeas, fried rosemary and topped with shaved bonito (that’s shriveling before my eyes). It surprised me that this was spicy even though it doesn’t look like it’s oozing in a spicy red lava sauce. It’s a kind of heat that is subtle in the beginning and goes on simmer (on the heat spectrum) for the entire time I ate it.
As we near the dessert course, a server presented us with a large wooden box with a grater on top, filled with petit fours. The day’s selections were olive oil gelato pop coated in brioche crumbs, miniature bomboloni (donuts) filled with vanilla custard; inside the box were lemon tarts topped with tristar strawberry, and candied grapefruit filled with caramel. All were greatly enjoyed. Our favorites were the gelato pop (for cold meets room temp and creamy meets crunchy) and the candied grapefruit (chewy texture and complex flavors that the fruit tasted wine-like).
For the actual dessert, I wanted something different for dessert and ended up with the sfera di caprino with celery sorbet and fig agrodolce. A trio of goat cheese spheres coated in coarse, buttery breadcrumbs, topped with pasta-like strands of cold, crunchy celery and a quenelle of celery sorbet. It’s a fine line between a dessert and cheese course but it worked really well. It’s very refreshing and delicious. Dr. Y liked it but not as much as I did since it’s a little too far fetched for his preference.
Dr. Y’s dessert was Lidia’s sweet pea cake with local strawberries and strawberry gelato. It’s not as far fetched as my dessert but it’s an inventive take on a standard yellow or olive oil cake. The peas were subtly sweet lending a hint of its vegetal sweetness, the tristar strawberries were sublimely sweet and melted in your mouth like cotton candy. The strawberry gelato echoed the strawberry’s sweetness and added a cold element to the warm parts of the dessert. It’s a dessert that anyone can love.
For a meal for $29, this is worth going for and frankly, a bargain for the inventive dishes that’s on the same level as high French cooking. The service was very attentive and friendly. You can’t really ask for more.