891 1st Ave. (@ 50th St.) NYC
Maître d’, Owner and Executive Chef.: Anthony Curko
A far cry from its former incarnations as Copain (more notable for its location-use in the film “The French Connection” than its food) and Whylie’s, an on-again-off-again rib joint, Destino was a roaring success after just six weeks of operation, when it opened in 2006. Call it luck, Kismet or the power of publicity, but this pleasant east side Italian restaurant was still playing to a full house on the night of our visit. Customers were loving the traditional ‘home-style’ Italian cooking. Well, the chef-owner, Anthony Curko, is from the never-can-get-a-reservation Rao’s family.
And the causally elegant dining room is attractive with its bar-lounge, and large chandelier, as you enter and oil-on-canvas 40-foot Renaissance fresco on the ceiling. The main dining room may lack generosity in spacing its tables, but attractive leather banquettes, a lovely smoked mirror, soothing beige walls and loads of wall sconces create the right mood. On the downside, the noise level is high and the service, while friendly, can be slow. The greeting, by the attractive Anthony Curko,is warm and welcoming.
Not overly large portions guarantee a complete dining experience that will not have you walking away with that over stuffed feeling. A meal at Destino’s conjures memories of your Italian grandmother’s Sunday dinner, if she had lightened up the food, most of which is very good.
Chef Curko’s, meatballs in marinara sauce are two hefty players that put most versions around town into second field. Eggplant Rollatino, gently stuffed with Mozzarella is deliciously grease-free. Two pastas, linguini in white clam sauce and spaghetti carbonara are both al dente as requested and perfectly sauced. In the entrée division, a Roasted Rack of Lamb in a Brown Sauce, with Asparagus, Roasted Potatoes and Cherry Tomatoes was nice, but was eclipsed by a outstanding chicken Scarpariello, served on the bone with hot and sweet sausage, peppers and onions.
Desserts are standard: the ubiquitous Tartuffo, cheesecake: well you get it. The wine list is just a few pages, but there are enough options under $50 to please(best value is the delightful Roero Arneis D.O.C. Traisorì, 2010) and drinks are generous and well made. They were still packing them in as we left and the host said the restaurant was heavily booked all evening So for an honest, affordable Italian experience in this part of town, book well in advance.
Copyright 2013 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.