Friday, September 4, 2009

Fabio Piccolo Fiore New York Restaurant Review











Fabio Piccolo Fiore


230 East 44th Street New York, NY 10007

(212) 922-0581 Reservations accepted

Executive Chef: Fabio Hakill






My Rating: *****

Check out this review in a New York Food Publication: 


I flew into New York this past week for some press on my new record and I invited several of the crew to go with me to have a nice dinner on our day off.  I'd heard about a relatively new place on the East side that served authentic Italian Cuisine and decided to try it out.  The restaurant has several tables outside on the sidewalk for a nice New York evening, which is nice because East 44th street is not very busy with car or foot traffic.  But the atmosphere inside is worth checking out too. About 10 steps below street level, the restaurant has a modern feel but with definite Italian elements and great artwork.

When I arrived Scott and Josh were at the bar having a drink and carrying on a lively conversation with Eddie the bartender. I decided to join them for a drink and after a bit more gabbing with Eddie, we finished our beverages and Bobby, the Maitre d' led us to our table.  He listed off the specials for the evening and explained that Chef Fabio is always willing to accommodate the guests if they don’t see what they like on the menu - all we had to do was ask. A very cool option: to have the chef make your favorite Italian dish or a combine a few things on the menu.

On the way to our table we passed a piano player playing jazz tunes an old upright piano. During our meal he had asked where we were from so he could play us a tune from our hometown. His selection: "Take Me Home Country Roads" and "Georgia On My Mind" for Georgia (for me) and Virginia (for Josh). (Later that night another song caught my attention. I tired to place it. Jazz standard? Something more contemporary, perhaps? Ah no - it was "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day. Apparently the pianto player likes to have tunes so that his younger audiences can relate.)


On To The Food


After being seated, I took care of the libations ordered a bottle of Chianti Classico. It has been said by many people that Chianti is the Italians version of the French Bordeaux for 2 reasons. First every Chianti is from a specific region in Italy with Classico being the Northern area of Florence and every chianti has specific guidelines to the grape blends. Chianti must have at least 75% - 100% Sangiovese, up to 10% Canaiolo, up to 20 % of any other approved red grape such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot or Syrah. This wine tasted very good with a berry and floral smell and taste to it. It was very smooth. The 3 of us finished 2 bottles of it over dinner - needless to say, it was pretty darn good.


Amuse Bouches


Bruschetta - The chef sent out a crouton bruchetta amuse bouche to start. This hit the spot and worked perfectly well with the Chianti we ordered.  The toasted crouton was amazing and the fresh tomatoes, herbs and cheese worked well to give it a bright, fresh flavor. I am glad he only sent 1 for each of us because I could have ruined my dinner eating a ton of those.


Appetizers


Crab Cake - Possibly the best crab cake I have ever tasted  – not a pinch of breadcrumbs in this crab cake.There was not a pinch of bread crumbs in this crab cake. Perfectly seasoned and cooked. I think the chef knows he has a winner here because there is no superfluous sauce to cover up a bad crab cake.

Misto di Nettuno (shrimp, octopus and squid) - This dish was excellent. The octopus and squid were like butter and the shrimp was delicious. It was slightly reminiscent of a ceviche salad. Everything was mixed up in a olive oil, basil, garlic and salt mixture. It was so good that when I finished the fish, I committed the worst of etiquette faux pas: I used my bread to clean up the rest of the olive oil mixture. It was that good. Growing up as a kid in New York I ate calamari that was cooked only in olive oil and garlic or marinara sauce. I can honestly say I don't think I ever had fried calamari in New York. I have missed it greatly and this dish brought back some many great memories.

Cocktail Fabio (shrimp crabmeat and oysters) - Wow this was awesome. I am a sucker for a raw bar spread. Some lemon and cocktail sauce with the right amount of horseradish and I'm sold. Again everything tasted fresh and you could have fed me this plate all night. It was the perfect portion with 3 oysters and some shrimp with a pile of fresh crabmeat.


Salads


Classic Caesar Salad - A very good caesar salad. The one thing that I really liked about their caesar salad is that the dressing was not that typical heavy cream dressing. It was more of a oil based dressing that also did not have a strong anchovy taste. It had big pieces of shaved parmesan cheese and had awesome croutons like those from the bruschetta amuse bouche.

Arugula Salad - This was a nice salad. It had arugula, pears, walnuts with a orange vinaigrette. I think if this salad had some goat cheese or crumbled blue cheese it would have taken it over the top. I am a sucker for cheese of all kinds though some people may have liked it as is.


Entree's


Gnocchi alla Genovese - This might have been my favorite dish all night. I love fresh pasta dishes and this one is special. It was fresh gnocchi tossed in fresh tomatoes, mozzarella and a light pesto sauce. The sauce was so light that you could probably take a gnocchi and put it on your napkin and you would not see much of anything there which to me is awesome. I want to taste the potato and flour and not a sauce. The gnocchi were light and very moist and the tomatoes and mozzarella complimented them without overpowering the dish.

Veal Chop - I actually took the maitre d's advise and combined a few menu items. While the gnocchi is an entree, I asked for a small portion and had the veal chop as my entree. What a treat - perfectly cooked to medium rare and seasoned just right with a moderate dose of salt and pepper. It was garnished with broccoli and carrots but for me it was all about the chop. I don't get to have veal chops too often because not many restaurants serve them. I love to cook myself but veal chops and rack of lamb are so hard to cook right that I don't even try anymore I just wait to order them out. If you have not had a veal chop I would compare it to combining a great ribeye with a thick pork chop. You get all that flavor from the bone being on the meat and you have that taste and texture that melt in your mouth.

Shrimp & Lobster Risotto alla Fabio - This was a huge dish that will definitely fill you up. The lobster was cooked to perfection and like all the shrimp dishes that we had earlier these were seasoned well and tasted great. Risotto is very hard to make especially a good one and it takes a while to cook because you have to keep it on a low burner and slow cook it. It was a beautiful orange color - I suspect the result of shellfish broth, a touch of saffron or a combination of the two.

Seafood Special - This was one of the 2 entree specials. It had clams, crabmeat, lobster and calamari in a light spicy red sauce over linguini. Again the sauce was not thick over heavy and it was more incorporated into the dish for flavoring. Everything worked well with this dish and pasta was very fresh.


Dessert


Tiramisu - I have to put this desert in with my all time favorite tiramisus. I had one in Rome that blew me away so much so that, even after stuffing ourselves silly, I had to order seconds - Fabio Piccolo Fiore's was a close match to my Rome experience. I loved the plating - an individual round tiramisu and the ingredients were well balanced. I hate when there is either to much mascarpone cheese or too much liquor. Were I not so stuffed I would have ordered a second piece.

Italian Gellato - 2 huge scoops of home made vanilla ice cream. Tasted great and I don't think we left a drop in the bowl.

Creme Caramel - This was the lightest of all 3 deserts but it still packed huge taste on your palette. It reminded of a cross between a creme brulee and a flan. The custard was delicious and it just melted in your mouth. The plate was garnished with strings of whip cream that perfectly complemented the dish.



Final Thoughts


The food at Fabio Piccolo Fiore reminds of my trip to Rome. Everything is so authentic and the recipes have probably been passed down from generations. Fabio is an amazing chef and he knows how to allow the main item of a dish to stand out. All of the ingredients in his recipes are to enhance the pasta, fish, and meat without clouding what you are eating. His dishes are very refined, plated beautifully and the portions will have you leaving very full.

All of the fish and pasta are extremely fresh. The chef wants you to taste the freshness of the pasta and not some heavy sauce that was thrown on it. The shellfish, clams and squid are all great and it is such a treat to have them prepared in a authentic Italian way: less is more.

The wait staff was impeccable and the atmosphere was lively, modern and classy. I would highly recommended this restaurant for a dinner date.

The menu is very diverse and offers something for everyone - especially given the chef's willingness to combine items and cook items that aren't on the menu.

If you are looking for great authentic Italian food that has not been Americanized and a nice quaint place to have dinner then I would highly recommend going to Fabio Piccolo Fiore.

Mark Trojanowski













3 comments:

  1. mmmm....I just ate lunch today, and this post made me hungry again. Gnocchi is my favorite...and that creme caramel thing sounded like it would be right up my alley. Unfortunately I don't live anywhere near NYC, so this place is out for me...but sounds amazing! Some of the best food I've ever tasted has come out of that city.

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  2. Next time work takes me to NY, this sounds like a must-try dinner.
    I understand you and the band will be in Boston (my hometown) on Wednesday October 21st. I'm not sure how much time you get before a show (looks like opener at 8:00, so you guys around 9:00-9:30ish), but if you are interested in one of Boston's best Italian restaurants, you should try Tresca. It is located in the North End (i.e., Boston's Little Italy), about a 10-15 minute drive from the Paradise venue, and features the most diverse and deep wine cellar in Boston for Italian wines, and has amazing northern Italian food with homemade pastas and several wonderful seafood dishes too. Plus... my father co-owns the restaurant along with Ray Bourque (Boston's hockey legend) and Paul Geary (former drummer for Extreme, presently a music agent/manager). If you or anyone else in the band/crew are interested in catching a great meal before the show, I'd be happy to set it up!

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  3. Fabio Piccolo Fiore is now offering a VIP card. $20 which gives you 10% off. Here are the details. http://www.fabiopiccolofiore.com/special_offer_email.html

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