Tiella Brings Cast Iron Neapolitan Cooking to the UES

Tiella is located at 1109 First Avenue between 60th and 61st Streets on the Upper East Side, and is open for dinner Monday through Saturday from 5 to11 PM, on Sunday from 5 to 10 PM and for lunch Monday-Saturday 12-3PM. For reservations, call 212-588-0100 or visit http://tiellanyc.com/.

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Neapolitan Joys and a Class Act at Tiella 

            Tiella. A narrow sliver of the Upper East Side with polished wood tables, a tin ceiling, assorted plants and endless charm is a real discovery. The restaurant is named for the cast iron pans that often yield Napoli’s most prized culinary offerings. Unique, creative, and always artfully presented, Tiella’s food is the perfect middle ground between the popular and addicting Neapolitan pizza we’ve come to love and the sophisticated cooking from Napoli we’re bound to fall for.

            There’s more to Neapolitan food than great pizza, and out to prove it to New Yorkers is Peppe Castellano, Executive Chef of Manhattan newcomer, Castellano may be best known for his award-winning restaurant Gran Gusto in Cambridge, MA, where he serves artisanal pizzas with highbrow toppings to throngs of hungry Bostonians, but his career has seen him through many famed kitchens in both Italy and New York. As a young protégé, he met Tiella’s front-of-house authority and co-owner Mario Coppola, who has a winning smile and a welcoming personality.

            Backstage, in the kitchen, things are known to get quite heated: the city’s smallest wood burning oven, a custom-creation for Castellano’s slender space, reaches up to 900 degrees and is responsible for cooking a majority of Tiella’s signature dishes.

            Start with a basket of home-baked bread—each bite is best served when dipped into the accompanying Novello oil, a first-press olive oil from Calabria with an intensely grassy, peppery kick that’s the center of many culinary rituals in Italy. A toast over Prosecco “Vazzola” from Conegliano, Italy’s most prosecco-forward region, is sure to open the appetite further. (or enjoy a stronger libation; there is a full bar). Pair it with an appetizer of stracciatella: the ultra-supple mozzarella look-alike from Puglia gets good company from paper-thin sliced speck and arugula. Together, the cheese and meat seem to engage in conversation, calling out each other’s salty, smoky richness.

           Follow through with salmone, a similar presentation with wildly different flavors. The star ingredient, salmon carpaccio, home-cured for 48 hours in a salt, pepper, sugar and clove mixture, gets wrapped delicately around a fennel and citrus salad dressed in a bright lemon-orange dressing, the perfect counterpoint to the silky, briny fish. Prefer something on the vegetarian side? The sformatino, an elegant spinach flan coated in a mild and sweet gorgonzola sauce, makes for a beautiful option, two brightly green mezzalunas that melt richly on the tongue.

Tiellas, the namesake dishes from the wood-burning oven, make a perfect second course option. They’re most comparable to a personal pizza, kicked up a few notches. The custom-blended dough—not a traditional pizza dough—is layered with ingredients like San Daniele prosciutto and foie gras or caprino goat cheese and bottarga. Order the latter with a glass of Fiano “Donnaluna,” a medium, full-bodied white from Salerno with minerality from nearby Vesuvius—it pairs perfectly with the subtly tart goat cheese and decadent roe, whose curiously playful interaction makes you wonder why most Italians are so intent to keep fish and cheese apart.

           Perhaps Castellano’s talents are best evidenced in his pasta work, where the sauces he creates take a cue from his days as an entremetier. His Spaghetti Chitarra, for instance, twists the typical Spaghetti Vongole by harmoniously marrying clam and zucchini sauces—an inspiration taken from a town outside Sorrento called Nerano. Crunchy, cheesy strips of zucchini add texture to a dish that’s otherwise smooth and creamy; the clams’ natural oceanic flavor is pure and clean, emphasized by a small punch of chili.Absolutely one of Manhattan’s most delectable pasta creations! Scialatielli dressed in smoked mozzarella and eggplant is another specialty: the hard-to-find pasta is made with milk and hand cut into its signature curly shape.

           Regardless, a real must-try is the Risotto All’Aragosta, a perfectly executed risotto with lobster and pink grapefruit. The flavors are unusual but exceptional, each one sharply defined, clearly present in each bite, but never overpowering—the sweetness of lobster and grapefruit play down the gentle aromatics of dill.

           Save space for entrees, which also bear the hallmark of the signature oven in the back. Branzino comes over a sweet and sour eggplant marinated in 25-year-aged balsamic, a beautiful marriage of subtle and bold flavors. Oregano and thyme are leading flavors on the herb-crusted Agnello, or rack of lamb—a tender and moist endeavor served with a delicately dressed broccoli rabe, delicious in its freshness and simplicity. Pair it with a beautiful glass of Barbera d’Asti from the Barolo region—its medium body lends itself well to the simple but nuanced preparations.

           Throughout the meal, the wine program, designed by Coppola after years of extensive research and practice, will yield many surprises—his emphasis is on gems like the Fiano that are under-explored and hard to find in the city. Many of those hail from the south of Italy, and act as alternatives to the tried-and-true varietals that are much more common.There are about 14 wine priced at under $50 , including the captivating 100% Petit Verdot, “Castale del Giglio” 2006 ($44). Medium bodied, aromatic and superb with food, we highly recommend it.

           Desserts are a high point. All imported gelati are as good as it gets (especially the hazelnut)*. Or  sip on limoncello: the Italian liquor only emphasizes the delicate flavors in the Delizia al Limone, a Sorrento classic made of limoncello spiked sponge cake filled with lemon-scented cream. Tiramisu is made with Sambuca-soaked Savoiardi and lots of love (it shows), while a Pistachio Caprese takes flourless chocolate cake to a more mellow place, employing almond flour for a nutty, aromatic quality that makes it the perfect ending to a decadent meal.

Service is surprisingly polished at Tiella and in an area of town with loads of Italian restaurants that pale by comparison, Tiella fires up the UES with taste and talent, and is a must try

* Meno Diciotto, the BEST Italian gelato, is imported at 18 degrees below (Celsius), & is served at Tiella, 1109 First Ave. 212-588-0100

Copyright 2010 by Punch In International. All Rights Reserved.

Disclosure

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Sample Menus (Subject to Change)

CAPRESE 8
bufala mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and basil
ARUGOLA 9
bufala mozzarella, tomato sauce, prosciutto
and arugola with parmigiano cheese.
POSILLIPO 10
bufala mozzarella with mixed seafood
SORRENTINA 10
smoked mozzarella with eggplant and cherry tomatoes
SALTIMBOCCA
PROSCIUTTO E GORGONZOLA 11
prosciutto, gorgonzola cheese and figs
SPECK E TALEGGIO 10
taleggio cheese, speck and mixed green salad
PORCHETTA E MOZZARELLA 11
porchetta and fresh bufala mozzarella
CINGHIALE E BROCCOLI 11
wild boar sausage and broccoli rabe

ANTIPASTI E INSALATE
SALMONE 10
salmon carpaccio served with arugola and lemon dressing
SPINACI 8
baby spinach with orange and fresh goat cheese
SCOGLIO 11
mixed seafood salad dressed with lemon
MELANZANA 9
eggplant parmigiana

PASTA
VONGOLE 18
spaghetti with New Zealand cockles and sliced tomatoes
PORTOFINO 16
penne with shrimp, fresh cherry tomatoes and pesto
GNOCCHI 14
oven-baked potato gnocchi with bufala
mozzarella and tomato sauce
ORTOLANA 22
rigatoni with peppers, zucchini, eggplant and cherry tomato sauce

I SECONDI all served with fresh vegetables
PICCATINA 19
veal scaloppine in lemon sauce topped with fried zucchini
POLLETTO 16
whole roasted baby chicken
SALMONE 18
oven-roasted salmon
ACQUA PAZZA 20
filleted fish of the day in "crazy water"

LA TIELLA
STRACCIATELLA E TARTUFO 12
CAPRINO E BOTTARGA 12
soft goat cheese and grey mullet roe
FRUTTI DI MARE E MOZZARELLA 12
mixed seafood with bufala mozzarella cheese
SAN DANIELE E FOIE GRAS 12
San Daniele prosciutto and foie gras

PER INIZIARE
MANZO 14
beef carpaccio with baby spinach,
pachino tomatoes and aged vinegar
STRACCIATELLA 12
stracciatella cheese with speck
TAGLIERE 13
mixed cold cuts and cheese with fruit mustard
SFORMATINO 11
spinach flan with sweet gorgonzola sauce
SALMONE 12
salmon carpaccio with julienne
of orange, fennel and lemon
CALAMARI 11
oven-roasted calamari with
mushrooms and lemon sauce
CAPESANTE 13
oven-roasted scallops with pecorino di Fossa cheese
FRUTTI DI MARE 13
sautee of mussels and clams
with toasted paprika bread

LE INSALATE
RUGHETTA 10
arugola, pecorino cheese and apple
with balsamic dressing
RICCIA 10
curly greens, grapes and toasted
almonds with lemon sauce
CAMPO 10
mixed greens, Bronte pistacchio
and fresh ricotta cheese

LA TIELLA
stracciatella cheese, prosciutto and shaved black truffle

LE PASTE
PACCHERI ALLA MONSIGNORE 20
paccheri with baccalà, cauliflower,
SPAGHETTI CHITARRA 20
spaghetti chitarra with baby
clams in zucchini sauce
RIGATONI 20
rigatoni with baby calamari,
cherry tomatoes and spinach
NERA 22
black ink cuttle fish fettucine with
scallops and chanterelle mushrooms
PAPPARDELLE 24
pappardelle with lobster in cherry tomato sauce
SCIALATIELLI 18
scialatielli with smoked
mozzarella and eggplant
INTEGRALE 18
whole wheat spaghetti with
radicchio, artichoke and speck
RAVIOLI 19
ravioli stuffed with cauliflower
in a parmigiano and saffron sauce
RISOTTO ALLA ZUCCA 20
butternut squash risotto with shrimp and mint
RISOTTO ALL’ARAGOSTA 22
risotto with lobster and pink grapefruit

I SECONDI all served with fresh vegetables
BRANZINO 28
branzino filet over grilled eggplant
with aged balsamic vinegar
ORATA 24
orata filet in potato crust with lemon and thyme sauce
DENTICE 26
oven-roasted wild red snapper with
Gaeta olives and basil leaves
FILETTO 28
oven-roasted beef filet mignon served with Cerignola olives
AGNELLO 28
roasted rack of lamb with fresh herbs
SCALOPPINE 24
veal scaloppine with melted smoked
mozzarella and radicchio
POLLETTO 22
whole roasted baby chicken
black olives and pine nuts

SPARKLING & ROSÉ GLASS BOTTLE
Prosecco Di Conegliano “Vazzola” 10 40
Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene “Jeio” Bisol 10 40
Gran Cuvee Bianca “Villa Rinaldi” Brut 2005 80
Piagé "La Gersa" 2009 9 36

WHITE WINE
Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie “Salvalai” 2009 8
Sauvignon “Benziger” 2009 9
Chardonnay “Blanc” Mazzolino 2005 12
Fiano ”Donnaluna” De Cociliis 2008 13
RED WINE
Nero D’Avola “Scurati” Ceuso 2008 9
Dolcetto D`Alba “San Giuliano” 2009 10
Sangiovese “ Casa Boschino” Calcinaia 2009 12
Barbera D`Asti “Bric Dei Banditi” Martinetti 2008 14
BEERS
Menabrea. . . . . 6 Forst . . . . . 6 Brooklyn . . . 5
Samuel Adams . 5 Anchor Steam 6

WHITE WINE
Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie “Salvalai” 2009 26
Sauvignon "Benziger" 2009 26
Verdicchio “Fontezzoppa” 2009 28
Grillo di Sicilia “Roccaperciata” 2009 32
Falanghina “Terredora” 2009 38
Kerner “Abbazia Di Novacella” 2009 40
Ribolla Gialla "Ronchi di Cialla" 2009 42
Greco Bianco “Statti” 2009 42
Gavi Di Gavi “Broglia” La Meirana 2009 45
Greco Di Tufo “Terredora” 2009 52
Sauvignon Blanc “Ronco Del Gnemiz” 2008 54
Falanghina “Flora” I Pentri 2008 54
Pinot Grigio “Ronco Del Gnemiz” 2008 58
Sauvignon “Colli Orientali Del Friuli” Meroi 2007 74
Gavi di Gavi “Minaia” Martinetti 2008 80
Chardonnay Dei Colli Orientali Del Friuli “Meroi” 2006 120
Langhe "Alteni di Brassica" Gaja 2007 225
WINE BY THE GLASS | BEER
Grechetto “Argillae” 2008 30
Pallagrello “Caiati” Alois 2008 42
Inzolia “Terre di Giumara” 2008 30
Fiano “Donnaluna” De Conciliis 2009 48
Chardonnay “Blanc” Tenuta Mazzolino 2008 46

RED WINE
Nero D`Avola “Chiaramonte” Firriato 2007 32
Dolcetto D`Alba “San Giuliano” 2009 33
Ros-di Rol "Sant’Elena" 1998 35
Sangiovese “ Casa Boschino” S.Fabiano Calcinaia 2009 36
Nero D’avola “Scurati” 2008 38
Barbera D’Asti "Bric dei Banditi" Martinetti 2008 40
Sangiovese "Campo D’Aia" 2007 42
Petit Verdot “Casale Del Giglio” 2006 44
Vernaccia Nera “Falcotto“ 2007 45
Valpolicella Classico Superiore ”Seccal” Nicolis 2007 46
Marzemino “Pratello” 2007 48
Chianti Classico “San Fabiano Calcinaia” 2008 48
Cabernet Franc “Antico Broilo” 2008 50
Aglianico “Donnaluna” Deconciliis 2008 54
Lacryma Christi “Terredora” 2007 64
Rosso di Conero “Agontano” riserva 2006 66
Chianti Classico “Querciabella” 2007 70
Pinot Nero Riserva “Lun” 2005 75
Barbera-Pinot Nero "Il Baciale’" Braida 2007 80
Sant`Antimo Rosso “Cum Laude” Banfi 2006 85
Barbaresco “Cascina Bruciata” 2004 90
Nebbiolo D`Alba “Hilberg” 2005 100
Barbaresco "Nubiola" Pelissero 2006 100
Langhe Rosso “Bric du Luv” Ca`Viola 2005 100
Aglianico “Naima” De Conciilis 2005 105
Amarone Classico Della Valpolicella “Acinatico”2005 110
Barolo "Scarzello" 2005 120
Supertuscan “Cerviolo” San Fabiano Calcinaia 2004 140
Amarone Classico “ Brigaldara” 2006 145
Barbera D`Asti “Bricco Dell`Uccellone” Braida 2000 150
Brunello di Montalcino “Collemattoni" 2004 150
Brunello di Montalcino “Il Paradiso” 2002 225
Supertuscan “Sammarco” Castello Dei Rampolla 2004 260
Valpolicella Superiore “Dal Forno” 2003 260
Supertuscan "Ornellaia" Tenuta dell’Ornellaia 2001 400
Barbaresco “Gaja” 2005 450
Lacryma Christi “Gelsonero” Villadora 2005 40

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