507 9th Ave (at W. 38th Street)
By Nancy Walman
RED SNAPPER FILET IN PARCHMENT PAPER As Presented at Il Punto
Il Punto is a very high-end Italian restaurant on a very “happening” strip of Ninth Avenue at West 38th Street. Owned by Tony Pecora who has many businesses in the city, the executive chef is Michaela Orsini. Orsini is one of the most versatile Italian chefs in New York. He makes everything in-house from the puffy focaccia to his glorious desserts for which he is known.
Tuna Crudo with Ginger-Mustard Sauce
The name means “destination” and a destination it should be. You might walk by the unassuming facade, but in good weather, the restaurant’s French doors open to sidewalk dining. Inside await three cozy, attractive rooms with terracotta floors, a burgundy color scheme and walls flanked with wine racks and hung with colorful pictures. The rooms are cleverly separated by silk-strands of curtains and the lighting is warm and inviting.
Start with an excellent house cocktail or cool glass of wine at the welcoming bar with its large urn of flowers guarding one end and a Sicilian wine cart guarding the other. Food is authentically Italian. Many of the ingredients are imported from Italy. But what’s unique about this amazing ristorante is the chef’s range of culinary execution .
Orsini may have a strong presence in the restaurant, but you’ll know his heart is in the kitchen when he dazzles you with three versions of the incredibly delicious Crudo (the Italian version of Sashimi}: Tuna with Ginger-Mustard Sauce, Raw Baby Squid with Frisse and Lemon Dressing and the star, Sliced Baby Octopus with Roasted Peppers and Marinated Eggplant.
Setting the tone with such a trendy beginning, chef Orsini then bows to a staple of Italian home cooking: SPONGY AND TENDER STRIPS OF HONEY COMB TRIPE, simmered in CARROTS, CELERY, ROSEMARY, SAGE, ONION, DICED TOMATO AND FRESH GREEN PEAS, a dish so pure that only a gentle sprinkling of Peperoncini (Italian peppers) is needed to bring you as close to Italian-heaven as you’ll get in a Manhattan Italian restaurant.
Of course, what’s an Italian restaurant without pasta. You won’t be disappointed with TIMBALLO, LAYERS OF WIDE RIBBONS PASTA, BECHAMEL SAUCE, MEAT RAGU, AND PARMIGIANO REGGIANO. A sort of fancy Lasagna, our table couldn’t get enough. Also marvelous, with one caveat (request it to the right of al dente, ours was a tad undercooked), PACCHERI AL SUGO DI GUANCIALE or LARGE RIGATONI WITH BEEF CHEEKS, FRESH GROUND TOMATOE AND SPICES was better than any pasta we sampled at many venues that received accolades from the media.
There are other unusual pasta options including two we didn’t sample: CONCHIGLIE CON CAVOLFIORI, GAMBERI E BROCCOLI, TINY PASTA SHELLS, CAULIFLOWER, RED ONION, GARLIC, CAPERS, ANCHOVIES, OLIVES, SHRIMP AND BROCCOLI and SPAGHETTI AL PEPERONCINO E PESTO DI CARCIOFI, RED SPAGHETTI WITH ARTICHOKE OLIVE PESTO .
Italian restaurants to us mean antipasti, pasta or risotto, entree and cheese and/or dessert, so you can’t miss such main courses as the much abused POLLO ASSUT ASSUT: CHICKEN PIECES ON THE BONE SAUTEED WITH GARLIC, ROSEMARY, LEMON JUICE AND A SPLASH OF WHITE WINE. Normally dubbed Chicken Scarpiello (perhaps he was the brother-in-law of Sr. Rossini), and prepared incorrectly (off the bone and bludgeoned with sauce), chef Orsini gets it right. His LOMBATINA AL VINCOTTO or GILLED TENDER RIB VEAL CHOP, RED WINE REDUCTION, DRIZZELED WITH VINCOTTO, SPINKLED BLACK TRUFFLES, MASHED POTATOES AND SPINACH is elegant, while ORGANIC FED TURKEY OSSOBUCO, BRAISED IN FRESH TOMATOES, WHITE WINE AND HERBS SERVED WITH OLIVE LEAF SHAPED PASTA is a deliciously healthy alternative.
Seafood lovers will enjoy both DENTICE AL CARTOCCIO, RED SNAPPER FILET IN PARCHMENT PAPER WITH FRESH HERBS, SNOW PEAS, ZUCCHINI, ROSEMARY, MUSHROOMS AND CHERRY TOMATOES and CIOPPINO, a creation whose roots lie closer to San Francisco than Italy, but is fresh and delicious just the same with its mélange of RED SNAPPER, STRIPED BASS, MONK FISH,SHRIMPS, MUSSELS, CLAMS, SCALLOPS AND CALAMARI IN AN AROMATIC FISH BROTH.
Finish with the best Tiramisu in town, each layer distinct and light, an outstanding Tartufo Gelato, Italian Cheese cake with strawberries culis, the luscious Miniature Cannolis or the fabulous home-made ice creams.
Service is guiding and solicitous and the wine list is user-friendly and well priced.with inexpensive carafes countered by such winners as Cerreto’s sprightly Albarino (priced in the mid-$40s). Don’t expect an empty restaurant. Il Punto, has a loyal local clientele peppered with knowledgeable out-of-towners,in search of a good deal near the theater and Madison Square Garden.(There is a “$30+” Pre and Post Theater Dinner Menu.) Il Punto also happens to be one of Manhattan’s most gratifying Italian restaurants!
The Succulent Veal Chop
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