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Dinner at A Voce, 4/04/08

Megan, the first girl I met when I moved to NYC...And now one of my best friends, and I had made plans to meet up for dinner on Friday, April 4th. We decided that she'd choose the cuisine and from there, I'd pick the restaurant. So when my girl blurted out "Italian," I knew that A Voce would be the perfect choice for our upcoming dining excursion. I was lucky enough to snag a two-top for 8:45 p.m.

Meg and I began our evening at Gilt (shout out to you, Blair Waldorf!), in the New York Palace Hotel. Four outrageously expensive beverages later, we hopped in to a downtown-bound cab and arrived at A Voce about fifteen minutes shy of our reservation. We made a bee-line for the two empty stools at the bar and ordered prosecco-based cocktails mixed with grappa-marinated blood oranges. While Meg was scrolling through her phone and slowly sipping her perfect concoction, I took the opportunity to study A Voce's vibe and atmosphere. Located on the ground floor of an unassuming office building, A Voce hugs one of NYC's best corner locations, at 26th Street and Madison Square Park. Upon entry, I was delighted and quite surprised by how seamlessly the restaurant's sterile "office building" space became warm, chic and inviting, when I'd wrongfully assumed that I'd find myself in more of a cold, linoleum-esque environment. The hardwood floors, bar and entry-way wall were made with planks the color of a Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar, speckled with chopped almonds. Stark white walls and leather bar stools contrasted beautifully with the dark woods. The lighting was pleasantly dim, yet bright enough to clearly read both the extensive wine list and food menu. A Voce's acoustics, which I'd read and heard to be deafening, were far from it; the medium volume noise-level was quite pleasant, actually.

At 8:45 p.m. on the dot, A Voce's manager tapped Megan and I on the back and announced that they were ready to seat us at our table. He grabbed both of our drinks, placed them on a shiny silver butler's tray (so that we wouldn't have to carry them AND all of our bags) and whisked us away to our spacious two-top. Not a minute after we sat down, dinner menus and a wine list appeared before our eyes. It certainly didn't take Megan and I very long to decide what we were going to order, especially with our waiter's insight. To start, we chose the Sardinian sheep's milk ricotta and a special asparagus preparation with pancetta, fried egg and fresh parmesan. For her entree, Megan went with a sweet pea ravioli and I ordered the famous scampi ravioli.

Our two appetizers arrived simultaneously. Slices of thick, grilled, buttered and halved country bread hugged a soup bowl filled with snow white sheep's milk ricotta that had been laced with a heavy drizzle of earthy olive oil, fresh cracked pepper and sea salt. The cheese was as silky and smooth as Jiff's Creamy Peanut Butter, thus creating a seamlessly effortless spread for the bread. I could taste the subtle smokiness and buttery olive oil on the bread's crusty exterior, giving way to the mild ricotta, spicy black pepper and the perfect amount of salt. Honest to God, I could not stop eating this! The bright green row of blanched asparagus spears were topped with a fried egg, pungent black truffle oil, freshly ground pepper, think slices of salty parmesan cheese and ample cubes of pancetta. Again, this dish was another winner. The combination of so many different textures and flavors that were incorporated in to what is normally a boring "green" vegetable created quite a beautiful symphony of tastes. After nearly licking both appetizer plates clean, Megan and I were eagerly anticipating what was next to come. If the appetizers were this good, we figured the entrees would be outstanding!

When our plates arrived, we were both impressed by their pristine appearances and the clear observation that A Voce hand makes their pastas on the premises. Before cutting in to my first piece of ravioli, I noticed that the pasta was swimming in a shallow tomato-seafood broth that was dotted with baby calamari, a random de-shelled mussel and bite-size pieces of crawfish. I guess I was surprised, because my entree looked more like an Italian version of paella (with pasta instead of rice). My first forkful divulged a lukewarm, congealed, fishy ground filling that reminded me of the interior of a crab Rangoon or the king-crab dumplings at Haru. What a bummer! Megan seemed equally unimpressed by her sweet pea ravioli, saying that it needed some sort of kick or spice.

I regret to say that we did order desserts, but they didn't knock our socks off. I'm embarrassed to admit that...I can't even recall which sweets we chose! And folks, The Lunch Belle never forgets a meal! Not a good sign!

In conclusion, I thought that A Voce was fantastic. Yes, the entrees and desserts didn't live up to their inflated expectations, but I'm willing to bet that we may have ordered wrong. The appetizers and service, however, were some of, if not the best, I've had in New York.

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