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Lindsay

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« CLOSED: Brunch at Mesa Grill, 6/20/09 | Main | CLOSED: Dinner at Table 8, 6/6/09 »
Thursday
Jun182009

Dinner at Novita, 6/17/09

  • Cuisine: Italian 
  • Atmosphere: intimate, modern, clean, fresh flowers, formal
  • Attire: business/smart-casual
  • Ideal for: business meals, 1x1/small groups, foodies, received Sam Sifton's approval
  • Must try: Insalata di Pesce, any of the homemade pastas
  • Price: Starters, all under $15.50; Pastas, all under $22.50; Protein-based entrees served, as well
  • Reservations: Via phone or opentable.com
  • Phone: (212) 677-2222
  • Website: www.novitanyc.com
  • Location: 102 E. 22nd St, (Btwn Park & Lexington Ave)

*All of my photos from this meal can be viewed on Flickr

For someone who’s lived in NYC for over 5 years, one would assume that I’ve:

  • Experienced true dim sum (with the cart, etc.)
  • Eaten at every restaurant within a two-minute radius (in every direction) of my apartment
  • Been to the observation deck of the World Trade Center (Hey, I was a summer intern there, for God’s sake.)

Sadly, I can’t cross any of these off of my “NYC to-do” list (the saddest being the fact that I never made it up to the top of the WTC…Out of shear laziness and the assumption that, “Oh, I’ll go the next time I’m in town”).

Novita was one of the two restaurants that I never got around to experiencing during my one-year stint on E. 22nd Street. So when my cousin Barbara wanted to grab dinner last night (and told me to pick the spot), I suggested “this lovely Italian spot on my old street.” After perusing the menu online and fantasizing about “homemade white tagliolini (pasta) with lobster ragú, asparagus and tomato cream,” the work day could.not.have.possibly.moved.slower. From my desk at 10:08am, our 7pm reservation seemed like an eternity.

I arrived at the restaurant about five-minutes prior to Barb, and was glad to see three outdoor tables set. Since the weather was cooperating sans precipitation, I made the executive decision of dining alfresco. *Note: The restaurant’s interior space is located just steps below street level. Though I didn’t get a good enough look, the dining rooms (there appeared to be two) seemed lovely. Think: Fresh orchids, large double-paned windows staring at 22nd Street, walls the color of fresh cream, and the overall feeling of intimacy/warmth.

Once Barb arrived, we were presented with menus and a basket of the freshest homemade bread and crunchy bread-sticks. Upon receiving our glasses of wine, the waiter returned to take our food orders. To start, we chose to share the Insalata di Pesce (seafood salad). “You know, the kitchen can split the salad in half for you ladies. Just thought that you may want separate plates,” the waiter said. “Yes, that would be lovely,” Barb and I exclaimed simultaneously. Though I mentioned the “homemade white tagliolini (pasta) with lobster ragú, asparagus and tomato cream,” I ended up ordering the “homemade buckwheat tagliatelle pasta with shrimp, tomato and artichokes” for my entrée.

Despite the gloomy 60 degree weather, summer arrived as I took my first bite of the insalata di pesce. Bite-size baby lettuce and radicchio were topped with snow-white lump crab meat, chopped grilled shrimp, and chunks of ripe avocado and tomato finished with a drizzle of thick, tangy vinaigrette. The vibrant mélange of colors, flavors and textures were so positively overwhelming, that I almost forgot I was dining at a sidewalk table in the concrete jungle.

After our salad plates were cleared, our entrees arrived roughly fifteen-minutes later. Tangled ribbons of buckwheat speckled pasta came tossed in a delicate tomato sauce and was finished with plump shrimp, sliced artichokes and chopped fresh basil. Simple and relatively light, this dish evoked the best flavors of land and sea.

Though rarely ordering dessert after a large meal, Barb and I simply couldn't resist. We opted for the baked peach (which was halved and pitted), topped with what tasted like amaretto-soaked brioche crumbles. The fruit lay underneath a scoop of homemade vanilla gelato, a mint sprig, and a small handful of fresh blueberries and blackberries.

Novita just may reign supreme as my pick for NYC's best Italian. From the beginning of our meal (bread and olive oil) to the dessert, our experience was flawless. I can't wait to return!

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