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CLOSED: Dinner at Mia Dona

Tucked away on a relatively quiet, yet restaurant-heavy, block of East Midtown is Donatella Arpaia’s “Mia Dona.”
Mia Dona was chosen because of its proximity to a venue for a fundraiser/gala. Alice, Allie, Emily and I, decked out in our “formals,” arrived a couple of minutes shy for our 8pm reservation and were seated within minutes. As we followed the hostess to our table, I’m still not sure whether guests were gawking at our beauty or our attire, but I think it’s safe to assume the latter. When one of the ladies in my party belted out, “I’m so excited for our senior prom tonight,” we all chuckled. Mia Dona was certainly more casual than we had imagined.

Housed in a “railroad car” space (long and narrow), the interior is kissed with dark blonde wood paneling and furniture, dim lighting and baroque/contemporary design elements. The distance between tables and chairs makes both private conversation and space a reality.

Once the waitress had taken our cocktail orders, a large bread basket arrived that was filled with moist slices of tomato focaccia and crusty country baguette. As I reached for a hunk of focaccia, I noticed a large halved roasted garlic bulb. My heart fluttered with excitement as I lathered the two clove’s worth of creamy goodness (when garlic is roasted, its cloves become soft and spreadable) all over my bread. With a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, I could not have been more content.

To begin my meal, I ordered the appetizer portion of Mia’s Meatballs. Four golf-ball sized balls arrived in a shallow pool of marinara sauce topped with a light snow dusting of parmesan cheese. Each meatball was perfectly seasoned, shaped/sized and cooked. The precise ratio of veal, beef and pork yielded a smooth and silky texture. The tangy warm tomato sauce and spicy cheese allowed, not overpowered, the moist and delicate meat to take center stage. I must admit (though I hate to) that in comparing every meatball I taste to L’Artusi’s, Mia Dona’s version has now taken first place.

Within 15 minutes of finishing the appetizer, my entrée arrived. I was shocked to see a milky-white (instead of a deep burgundy colored) sauce atop my plate of Pappardelle Bolognese (which is typically tomato, not cream, based). Wide ribbons of pasta were kissed with a creamy (though not as heavy as Alfredo sauce) gravy that was delicately laced with ground veal, small cubes of speck and parmesan cheese. While I enjoyed my entrée and appreciated the sauce’s components, I don’t think I would order this dish again. The real star of Mia Dona’s pasta menu is the spaghetti & meatballs.

From the great service we received, to the menu’s delicious stars (halved roasted garlic bulb for the bread basket, perfectly cooked meatballs), I had a wonderful experience at Mia Dona. Though it’s not located in my dining neighborhood of choice, I hope to return in the near future.

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