Il Gattopardo was the last restaurant in New York City I visited before leaving for Italy on February 4. At that time, our plan was to stay in Italy for 5 weeks, but we left a week early when everything began to close down. Finally, as we learn to cope with our new pandemic lifestyle, we were able to return to Il Gattopardo, which reopened last week.
On a perfect late summer afternoon, the owner Gianfranco Sorrentino, properly masked of course, greeted us with not one, but two welcoming elbow bumps, mimicking the Italian tradition of due baci, two kisses, one for each cheek.
Gianfranco had designed a lovely Italian-style sidewalk cafe outside the restaurant.
Chef Vito Gnazzo came over to say hello and make some suggestions. We decided to follow his advice.
For the first course I had octopus salad with potatoes, olives and some crispy greens.
Michele had a summer favorite, fresh mozzarella with tomatoes, basil and extra virgin olive oil. It was just right, she said, simple and well seasoned and with no extra embellishment of balsamic vinegar, a pet peeve of hers.
For a main course, we had more pasta. This was fregola, small bits of lightly toasted pasta from Sardinia, here cooked like risotto until creamy with tiny asparagus and chopped scallops. Readers of this blog know that Michele and I frequently eat a variety of different pastas, but we were delighted to try these two, which were new for both of us.
With lunch we drank Fiano di Avellino DOCG 2019 DonnaChiara 100% Fiano. The soil is chalky clay and there are 4,400 plants per hectare. The vines are guyot trained and the harvest is the second half of October. There is a soft pressing of the grapes that are quickly cooled to 50F for 4 to 6 hours. Fermentation is at 57 to 60F in steel tanks for 15 days. Malolactic fermentation does not take place. This is a delicate and elegant wine with hints of almonds, floral notes and citrus fruit. It is a real pleasure to drink and it was a perfect combination with the food. I also saw this week that Daniele Cernilli aka Dr. Wine in his Essential Guide to the Wines of Italy rates this wine 95/100 and I agree.
For dessert, we had tiny cannoli lined with chocolate with a ricotta and chocolate filling.
As if that were not enough, I couldn’t leave without ordering the Pastiera, the restaurant’s signature dessert, and a Neapolitan icon. It is a cheesecake made with wheat, orange zest and cinnamon. Once it was enjoyed in Naples only at Easter time, but now it is eaten all year round. It is a favorite of mine.
Biscotti and espresso ended our meal.
What a pleasure to be able to dine at Il Gattopardo once again. Perhaps next time we will combine our visit with a stop at the Museum of Modern Art which is just across the street.