IL Tesoro’s Beguiling Main Dining Room
IL Tesoro is located at 1578 First Ave. and 82nd St., New York, NY 10028. Open Sunday-Thursday 5-10pm, Friday-Saturday 5-11pm. For reservations, call (212) 861-9620 and visit www.iltesoro.net. The wine cellar room is available for private events and live music. At the start of warm weather, expect al fresco dining on the restaurant’s outdoor patio.
The Upper East Side. New York’s Newest Old-Dining Destination
Downstairs Wine and Event Room
Seasoned restaurateur and esteemed chef A.J. Black has taken over the Yorkville space that housed the legendary Primavera Ristorante, breathing new life into it with IL Tesoro, an innovative “new classic” Italian restaurant. Recognizing the eternal mark Primavera left on the neighborhood, Black took great strides to preserve its memory by restoring its original decor and revamping its bloodline, the kitchen. These changes have revived the space and recaptured the well-heeled Upper East Side crowd.
Black grew up in the family restaurant business and becoming a chef and restaurateur came naturally to him. He attended the Italian Culinary Institute and then took an internship at Rome’s Grand Hotel before later honing his skills at Le Cordon Bleu, where he trained under Paul Bocuse. At the age of 19 Black opened his first eatery, Café Roma, in the Laterno District of Rome, before coming to the United States and opening several restaurant ventures in New York and Florida. Today, Black’s restaurant group encompasses IL Tesoro Bistro and cafe Dolce Tesoro in Florida’s Sanibel Island, and IL Tesoro at the Terrace in Martha’s Vineyard, which was featured in Relais & Chateaux’s 85 Inspirational Chefs, among other prestigious toques, like Thomas Keller and Jean Georges Vongerichten.
Now with IL Tesoro on the Upper East Side, the bones of Primavera shine anew. Rich wooden panels and chic black and white French tapestry, lining the walls, adorn the interior. The space also sports elegant marble columns that match the intimate marble-topped bar in the front room. To add rustic warmth, Black illuminates the restaurant with delicate lights in antique sconces and urns bursting with exquisite flowers. In the basement you can see the centuries-old iron gates covering racks of wine bottles, a clever design that gives the space a wine cellar vibe, which, combined with a piano for live music, makes it perfect to host private parties.
As Good As It Looks: Carpaccio di Salmone e Tonno
Turning to the cuisine, Black—inspired by his gastronomic culinary background and childhood in Sicily—incorporates his “new classic” style of Italian cuisine to the menu, taking classic dishes and ingredients and using them in modern ways. With that concept the dishes pull you in, starting with appetizers like the thinly sliced Carpaccio di Salmone e Tonno, a fresh dish with sushi grade tuna atop North Atlantic salmon drizzled with a light champagne vinaigrette. A hearty Antipasto del Giorno consists of traditional antipasto nibbles like grilled eggplant and roasted red peppers, alongside artichokes and rotating cheeses, including a superbly creamy Gorgonzola and Parmigiano. On the hot appetizer side, the giant Scallops Antica stun with a dark, blood orange laden sauce, a perfect marriage to the shellfish’s sweet meat. Showing a bit of his modern side, Black deep-fries lobster tail and shrimp in the Agrodolce (Pictured Below), which melds lovingly with a sweet and sour sauce.
Black also features tender Risotto Milanese along with the umami bursting Risotto con Porcini. Pastas include the decadent Paglia Fieno Trevisana, which whets the palate with a combination of white and green capellini in a lush truffle cream sauce with mushrooms, sweat peas, prosciutto and cheese baked on top. IL Tesoro’s Rigatoni Bolognese reaches the height of classic Italian and delivers it well using pulled, braised beef, a succulent tomato sauce, and perfectly cooked noodles.
If you seek the traditional Italian experience it won’t just be the white linen tablecloths that give it to you, main dishes including a braised Lamb Osso Buco with spicy eggplant sauce over risotto (Pictured Below) and the Scaloppini Favola, a veal dish with white truffle cream, will satisfy your craving. Black also serves sizeable plates of Duck Braciole, a roasted duck breast stuffed with spinach and smoky Scamorza cheese, with a Barolo wine and wild mushroom sauce..
For something really special, call in advance and order a Whole Animal Tasting or a seafood tasting dinner. We were delighted with Suckling Pig, as a pivotal ingredient for the four course feast. First Course offered Suckling Pig Confit Crostini with Crispy pork belly topped with melted Scamorza cheese. This was followed by a Second Course of Wild Mushroom Ravioli, filled with Suckling pork tenderloin and chanterelle mushrooms in a heady white truffle cream sauce. The Third Course was the Roasted Suckling Pig in all its glory . . . moist within and topped with a crackling skin that melted in your mouth. It was served over risotto and finished with a blood orange and Cognac sauce .
For dessert, confections include Black’s Tiramisu, a variation on the classic dish that incorporates his own special liquor blend. Equally decadent is the silky white chocolate Crème Brûlée was as good, if not better than Le Cirque’s iconic version.
A Chocolate Fantasy
IL Tesoro’s wine program features an extensive list of reserve bottles, housed within the cellar, and include a Bruno Giacosa 2004 Barberesco and a Gaja 2006 Rennina. For the regular drink menu Black organizes his widespread bottle selection based on grape varietals and serves an ever-changing list of wines by the glass. Some you may encounter include reds like the prestigious Ruffino 2006 Chianti C. Riserva Gold L. and a woodsy Zenato 2008 Valpolicella Ripasso. Off the white menu, IL Tesoro offers a smooth and fruity Bertani 2010 Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc blend, a superb Bruno Giacosa 2010 Arneis ($70) and the crisp Cake Bread Cellars 2010 Chardonnay. There are lots of good bottles in the $40 to $70 range and a fine Perrier Jouet by the glass.
Add to this, some of the best martinis in town, lovely table and glassware and guiding, well-informed and nurturing service and you will realize that you needn’t travel below 23rd street to be rewarded with an exhilarating restaurant experience. The Upper East side, once a mecca of fine dining venues, is making a comeback. Try IL Tesoro and you’ll see what we mean.
Copyright 2012 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.