Currently there's only six restaurants in New York City that carry the most coveted four-star rating by the New York Times: Eleven Madison Park, Per Se, Daniel, Jean Georges, Le Bernadin, and Del Posto. Among these fine dining establishments, Del Posto is the only Italian restaurant to hold the ranking. But Del Posto wasn't always a four-star restaurant --it took time like any great restaurant. Del Posto is in the Batali and Bastianich empire among some of New York's favorites like Babbo, Otto, Lupa, and Casa Mono to name a few.
Del Posto is located below the high line in Chelsea right outside the meatpacking district. The space is gorgeous although it reminds me of a hotel lobby. But hotel lobbies remind me of vacation and chef Mark Ladner took me on a short vacation through Italy with his delicious food. I arrived early and sat at the bar while the staff finished detailing their sections. I read through the cocktail list while admiring the comfortable bar-chair I sunk into. I'm always so happy when bar stools are comfortable and even more impressed when they have backs. Kristen arrived and we were seated shortly after. We did decide to dine on the earlier side of lunch (11:30) but the place was empty and didn't really fill up. Business men were scattered throughout the dining room; but not as crowded as I expected giving the $39 pre-fixe lunch deal. Then again, its a weird part of town and its the middle of the work-week. Either way, we enjoyed the solitude and we took in the space.
We sat at a corner banquette in the middle of the room which gave us a great vantage point of the restaurant. Look to your left to see the pianist glide his hands over the keys or to the right to see runners parade out of the kitchen like soldiers. We decided our entire meal before someone asked us about wine. Being that I had work in a couple hours, I wasn't looking to drink and was happy they didn't push it as soon as I sat. That being said, we did have the sommelier(?) come over to talk to us about wine after we had ordered. He seemed pretty knowledgeable, but we didn't really test him. I got a beautiful glass of Pettite Arvine, a local variety from the Valle d' Aosta region of Italy. The runner who brought the wine mixed up our wines, but that was the only hiccup in almost perfect service.
The meal then started with an amuse that reminded me of a strattiatella soup. Delicate flavors made me wish the thimble sized shot glass was a whole bowl. Two other bite size treats woke up my palate with flavors of both bitter and sweet. This trio of treats hit on all senses allowing us to dive into our antipasti. Kristen's started with the beef carpaccio which she thought was a bit bland. I thought that on my first bite as well, but when you ate it with the sage grissini and sunchoke puree it all came together really well. The beef itself was surprisingly a bit stringy; but the flavors were great when all combined. I liked the dish! I got the lobster fra diavolo ($10 supp) which the waiter told us was Lidia's recipe. The delicious sauce might have been Lidia's but I have a feeling the garlic bread panna cotta was Ladner's. Although I wasn't a fan of the panna cotta for textural reasons, it had great flavor and mimicked garlic bread so well. As far as the lobster goes, I've always been a fan simple dressings on seafood. Although the fra diavolo sauce was delicious, I normally prefer a lighter dressing like lemon juice.
We then opted to get a primi or pasta as a mid-course to our lunch pre-fixe. We got the scungilli that was made with two different pastas. Kristen got the preparation of scungili with gluten free pasta while I got it as is. I didn't taste hers, but my half order or pasta was a great midcourse. The combination of black garlic, black pepper, parsley, and lemon sang beautifully with the sea creature and pasta.
We then progressed into our main course or secondi. Kristen got the garganelli and I got the lamb. My lamb dish was probably one of the best lamb dishes I've ever had. The Sardinian lamb sat on a bed of Roman artichokes and braised mint/saffron potatoes. The runner who brought the dish out poured a thin sauce table-side and then gave me a hot napkin while encouraging me to pick the baby lamb chop. There was no way I was going to let any of the meat off this chop, so I did as the chef recommended! The lamb was served two ways as a piece of braised lamb sat adjacent to the chop. Not sure what cut it was from but it was quite delicious. Maybe it was the neck or deckle? Kristen's was good, but I was way to into mine to even think about the garganelli.
A palate cleanser of gelato/sorbet was sent out before dessert. This was a nice added treat that I enjoyed much after the delicious savory part of the meal. As we finished our wine, our server brought us over sparkling dessert wine that he poured into champagne flutes. A lovely sweet but bubbly wine made from brachetto and moscato filled our glasses. I'm still not sure why he did this, but we were extremely greatful. For dessert, I got the chocolate ricotta tortino and Kristen got the tartufo. My chocolate tortino wore toasted Sicilian pistachios and was accompanied by an olive oil gelato. Dedicate and rich yet restrained. After our desserts were cleared we were then presented with a cheese grater that came with more treats. Dehydrated rhubarb and edible candy wrapper treat sat on top while more treats rested in the box.
Overall, our experience at Del Posto was pretty spectacular. Sometimes high-end restaurants could pressure you into spending a lot of money. but that was not the case here. The service was top notch and the food was great. But again, this wasn't always the case. Del Posto took a couple years to find its groove in a world dominated by French-inspired.high-end restaurants; but the restaurant has reached its mark. Ladner takes a simple cuisine and elevates it pairing it with impeccable service allowing guests an unforgettable experience.
An expensive, but worth-wild experience. Lunch is a great way to experience one of the best restaurants in the city for under a $100; but staying under a hundo isn't easy especially if you like to have a glassy or two of wine with your meal. Definitely check it out.