46 West 22nd Street
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 206-0555
Site: Visit the restaurant site
It is one of the great inequities of Manhattan dining that so many fine restaurants remain less-than-packed while there are lines out the door at the city's undistinguished chain restaurants. For example, down in the Flatiron district, smart diners would be much wiser to turn eastward of the corner of 22nd Street and Sixth Avenue – the Olive Garden's newest location – and settle in at Arezzo. Owner Benito Meluzio took over this charming four-year-old eatery last spring, freshening up the soothing décor and enlarging both the wine selection and the repertoire of after-dinner drinks, notably a large array of grappa that are beautifully displayed in a wood-and-glass display case in the dining room. (Prices for these post-prandial libations run from about $14-$100 per glass.) What Meluzio hasn't changed, thankfully, are the hands in the kitchen: executive chef Margherita Aloi (one of the founders of Le Madri) and chef de cuisine Sergio Llanos. On our visit, most diners were enjoying Arezzo's excellent four-course prix fixe, extremely well-priced at just $40 -- but we decided to chart our own course. And we couldn't have been more pleased by a salad of beautifully prepared artichokes encasing cubes of fresh-as-possible mozzarella further enlivened by slices of salty prosciutto. A somewhat heartier salad – perfect for splitting as a starter of as a light main course on its own – combines generous pieces of warm lobster, purple potatoes and queen beans (which are essentially white lima beans) in a well-balanced dressing. Wintry nights cry out for the hearty warmth of a steaming bowl of pasta, and Arezzo's feather-light gnocchi in a remarkably flavorful "100 tomato" sauce is an excellent antidote to the December chill. The risotto of the day was shrimp, and since risotto and shrimp are two of my passions, I couldn't resist. The resulting dish wasn't spectacular, but I polished off every last grain of rice. If you want something less carbohydrate-oriented, there's oven-roasted Colorado lamb, a grilled rib-eye steak, and a wood-oven roasted fish of the day. A generous slice of tasty tiramisu and a fine apple crostada both provided a fine finish. As we walked back to Sixth Avenue, I was tempted to give directions to all those foolish souls waiting for a far less distinguished meal.
Review By: Brian Scott Lipton