777 7th Ave (51st St)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 582-1310
Fax: (212) 582-8117
Hours: Mon – Thurs, 5:30pm – 11pm Friday & Saturday, 5:30pm – 11:30pm Sunday, closed
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Chef: Marco Canora
Area: West 50s
Entree Price: $25-30
In the classic musical Gypsy, Stephen Sondheim wrote “You Gotta Have a Gimmick,” and nearly 50 years later, the lyric applies for more aptly to restaurants than strippers. Even, as it turns out, to upscale business-centric restaurants like Insieme, which recently moved into the Michelangelo Hotel.
The “gimmick” is that chef/owner Marco Canora – who has earned a flock of fans downtown for his cooking at Hearth – and chef de cuisine Edward Higgins have devised side-by-side menus, one focusing on traditional Italian cooking and the other allowing the chefs to showcase more contemporary flair. The attentive and knowledgeable servers urge you to mix and match -- after all, Insieme means together in Italian --but my friend Patricia and I allowed our culinary desires to overtake my journalistic obligation, with the result that we stuck almost exclusively to the traditional side of the menu. As far as I can tell, we made the right decision.
What our genial waiter didn’t point out -- until I asked – was that all of the selections from the six-course mix-and-match tasting menu are available a la carte. He also didn’t let us know that two sets of amuse bouche, including a superb egg drop soup, would precede the main event. Still, three courses here won’t leave you unbearably full. And that’s an added bonus, since if you’re dining a deux, you’ll be relegated to the wall of tightly-spaced tables lined up against the wall. Next time, I’ll drag some friends along in order to get one of the attractive, partially partitioned, and definitely roomier banquettes.
No matter where you sit, though, you’re likely to see plenty of the lasagne verdi Bolognese, which has become the house’s signature dish. Available in both starter and entrée portions, the lasagna consists of delicate spinach noodles layered with just the right amount of cheese and béchamel and topped with a slightly overcooked veal-and-beef ragu. A far lighter and even more delicious pasta option, chosen from the tasting menu, are ethereal potato ravioli in a barely-there sauce accompanied by fava beans, fennel, pecorino, and mint.
Patricia raved about her loin of pork, which arrived bathed in a pool of olive oil with sage, beans, and garlic, but I found it overly salty. No matter, I was thrilled with my gorgeously roasted duck breast, served over perfectly braised greens and napped in a zesty orange sauce (another tasting menu item). We were told that the bass “saltimbocca” was the most popular entrée on the menu, and we’re tempted to come back and give it a whirl.
Another visit would also allow us another chance at the many enticing dessert offerings. Not that we’re complaining one bite – I mean one bit – about the decadent “gianduja bar,” a generous slab of chocolate-hazelnut mousse perched atop a crunchy pistachio base, or fluffy-as-can-be, hot-from-the-oven cream-filled bomboloni (aka yeast donuts). Thankfully, they only served me a pair or I might still be at Insieme chowing down instead of writing this review.
Review By: Brian Scott Lipton