Caffe Dei Fiori (NYC)
Recently, we had dinner at Caffe Dei Fiori in the Upper East Side. It’s a very solid Italian neighborhood restaurant. The food isn’t fussy but it feels and tastes familiar.
The restaurant is a narrow, cozy dining room with what seems like an outdoor terrace in the back. A waiter comes cover to our table and presents us a large bread tray filled with five different choices, including good housemade focaccia rolls and replenished whenever your bread plate is empty.
We started off a classic plate of prosciutto and burrata that was tasty. We had a craving for some greens and opted for the house salad composed of shavings of snow peas, fennel, asparagus and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; though a fine plate of greens, probably we’re too early in the season for asparagus to really shine though the leafy greens.
Moving onto the pasta courses, the fagottini di zucca con gamberi e nocciole (squash fagottini tossed with shrimp and hazelnuts) and bucatini all’Amatriciana fared better than the appetizers. We were amazed of the unexpected flavor pairings of butternut squash, shrimp and hazelnuts could work beautifully. We weren’t too sure what was the filling for our fagottini pasta but it tasted and looked like sunchoke purée. The bucatini was cooked nicely and liked the small dices of guanciale that was rendered enough but still retained some chewiness but we preferred our Amatriciana sauce to be spicier as it tasted like good ol’ pomodoro sauce enhanced with guanciale.
The roast rack of lamb with mushrooms was cooked to the desired medium-rare (hard to find a restaurant that could consistently cook it to that temperature) and the flavors of the mushrooms (and its purée) were wonderful and seasoned perfectly. The zip of vinegar that was added to mushrooms was a necessary and delightful addition to the hearty lamb. The crispy suckling pig, quince chutney, Vin Santo shallots and polenta was overall good — pork belly was was rendered well and had a beautiful, golden brown, crispy skin and the polenta’s texture was great (not too thick and not too thin but erred on the side of thick) — but there was too much sweet chutney than needed that it dominated the delicately sweet flavors of the pork.
Though we’re pretty full at this point, we still had dessert. The tiramisu was very good, especially if you’re all about having a dense cloud of zabaglione custard mixed with mascarpone and whipped cream and a small amount of softened Italian ladyfingers dipped in liqueur-spiked espresso, this is your dessert. I opted for something lighter — a scoop of fig and plum sorbet that was nicely done.
In retrospect, I would have finished the dinner with a Vin Cotto dessert wine with a small plate of almond biscotti and butter cookies instead of all of the other desserts I’ve mentioned. Not because the desserts were bad in any fashion but it’s because I was ridiculously full and this route felt like a better option for my stomach.
We’ve enjoyed our time at the restaurant. The wait staff was accommodating and friendly. The food was very good and would come back as the menu changes over time.
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Caffe Dei Fiori
973 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10021