By Jeanine Zelkas
Evidence of a former incarnation is written all over the walls of Gradisca, with old framed posters advertising the various jazz and cabaret acts that once performed at the 70‘s nightclub known as Reno Sweeney. Soft jazz music playing in the background, rustic highlights, candlelit tables, low ceilings, and a combination of warm red-painted and brick walls additionally lend themselves to the jazzy ambiance of what is now a fabulous refined Italian restaurant. Entering its thirteenth year in business, Gradisca’s menu maintains high standards for quality cuisine that is largely inspired by the owner’s beloved “Mamma” who regularly handcrafts much of the pasta on-site.
You can taste the love in her divine light and flavorful ricotta ravioli as well as in meat-filled tortellini with cream sauce, whose recipe originated in her village in Italy. Opting for the multi-course chef’s tasting menu from Chef Daniele Boldrini’s newly debuted Summer menu is a great route to take here. Every dish had a unique personality and was creatively prepared and presented as a work of art. A seemingly simple fresh mound of yellowfin tuna tartar was elevated to a blissful height by an accompaniment of sweet caramelized onions with balsamic vinegar and adorned with a little flower. Beef carpaccio was appreciatively served at room temperature, enabling its flavor to fully shine, while additions of a lovely batter-fried butterflied artichoke, black truffle cream sauce, and a sprinkling of sea salt further enhanced the enjoyment of the Wagyu beef. The warm oozing Tomino cow’s milk cheese felt like a hug and was splendidly balanced by a crisp raddichio and green apple slaw. A complex ravioli dish was a heavenly concoction of lemon-infused buffalo ricotta encased within folded sheets of delicate pasta, served with toasted whole almonds, shrimp, and little cubes of succulent eggplant. We also loved the tasty ragu of free-range goose meat that topped a pile of al dente spinach tagliatelli. Our seared veal tenderloin was tender and delicious served with a nice parmesan cheese sauce, warm peach wedges, string beans, and scattered with threads of sweet crunchy bacon crisps. Desserts were equally unique and delicious with such standouts as a beautifully displayed mouthwatering semifreddo of light loose hazelnut custard and an intensely flavorful strawberry gelati with a bruleed blanket of marshmallow. Aside form the food, Gradisca’s other dolce vita assets include an extensive Italian-leaning wine list, specialty cocktails, a private room, a beautiful bar, outside seating on tree-lined West 13th Street, and the charming and ridiculously handsome manager, Pietro. •
126 West 13th Street