This past Thursday, I had a delicious lunch at Donatella in Chelsea, New York with a group of friends. This is a casual Italian restaurant owned the well-known restaurateur and television personality, Donatella Arpaia.
You probably might have heard of the famous blinged-out oven (as seen on Slice) that looks like a gold disco ball but it’s functional and built by Napoli’s best oven-crafters, Stefano Ferrara.
Her executive chef Jarett Appell is creating delicious food and excellent Neapolitan-style pizzas that would make a pizza purist and others very happy. Here’s the menu of what we ate:
Appetizers & Salads
Yellowfin tuna tartare with mascarpone & crispy shallots
Rock shrimp crudo with spicy pickled pepper, panzanella, citrus & basil
Grilled asparagus & baby spinach with purple potatoes, bacon & lemon caper vinaigrette
Fried calamari with lemon-bottarga aioli
Tomato braised veal meatballs
Pizzas & Pastas
Prosciutto rotolino: prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, parmigiano & truffle oil
Capellini with fresh tomato sauce, chili, toasted garlic & breadcrumbs
Housemade pappardelle with spicy marinated pork shoulder & pecorino
Margherita pizza: San Marzano Tomato, buffalo mozzarella, pecorino & basil
Montesanto pizza: roasted apricots, gorgonzola dolce, arugula & vincotto
Special pizza: crème fraîche, Jersey corn, spring onions & prosciutto cotto
Italian Pastry Trio: baba with chamomile grappa, miniature cannoli with chocolate & candied pistachio, ricotta zeppoli with lemon cream & rhubarb compote
Coconut layer cake, coconut buttercream, coconut sorbetto & roasted pineapple
Strawberry shortcake with local strawberries, basil-infused whipped cream, strawberry rhubarb sorbet
Classic tiramisu: mascarpone mousse layered with house-made lady fingers soaked in espresso and kahlua.
Rainbow cookie gelato sandwich filled with house-made vanilla gelato.
Hazelnut crunch cupcake: Devil’s food cake with chocolate hazelnut cream center, hazelnut praline buttercream, toasted hazelnuts
It was a lot of food and somehow we managed to walk sluggishly out and head back to work. I am thankful that there were about a dozen of us to help eating through the whole shebang.
Here’s several of my favorite dishes of this meal:
Donatella Arpaia is proud of her famous tomato braised veal meatballs, especially it won top honors in Meatball Madness event at the New York Wine and Food Festival in 2009. The meatballs were flavorful and impossibly tender, a texture that verges on downy. When you start chewing, it opens right up, rich and bright at the same time, the dark sweetness of the meat punched up with the hearty tomato sauce.
The fried calamari with lemon-bottarga aioli was expertly fried that it’s not greasy and it’s wonderfully crisp on the outside. The aioli is the condiment that changes completely and it’s wonderfully creamy, a bit salty and briny yet bright from the lemon. I thoroughly enjoyed the pappardelle with spicy marinated pork shoulder & pecorino. The pasta was cooked al dente and it’s sublime to have the super tender, hearty pork shoulder that gives a subtle kick.
The main reason to be at Donatella’s is really for the expertly made pizzas. I personally loved the Montesanto because the crust is not too thin and dry. (I’ve eaten a number of Neapolitan-style pizzas that tend to be soggy and it didn’t sit out long.) And I love the pairing of apricots with Gorgonzola Dolce (or any blue cheese). The touch of bitter arugula and sweet vincotto just made it amazing. Chef Appell also creates a variation of the calzone Prosciutto Rotolino, a long, narrow calzone that’s thin as their pizza. This was stuffed with gooey, fresh buffalo mozzarella, a salty kick of Parmesan, prosciutto and a touch of truffle oil.
On the sweet side from Pastry Chef Andrea Jarosh, it’s perfectly executed desserts that’s based on traditional Italian with a modern twist. My particular favorites were the made-to-order cannoli that has chocolate & candied pistachio dipped on the ends from the Italian pastry trio. The rainbow cookie gelato sandwich filled with house-made vanilla gelato were fantastic. It’s nostalgic but a lot more colorful and tastier than the ones I’ve had as a kid. Jarosh’s tiramisu was textbook perfect. Creamy, not too decadent and you can taste the love in it.
If you’re in the mood for good, reasonably priced Italian in NYC, I suggest eating out at Donatella. There’s a little bit of everything to make everyone happy from the pizza purist to someone who wants to eat a salad but more unique than the average plate of greens.
To view more of my photos of this meal and the restaurant, please scroll through the slideshow below (or click through my Flickr set):