519 Columbus Ave (85th St)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 724-2658
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Area: West 80s
Machiavelli is a restaurant that pays almost as much attention to the senses of sight and hearing as it does to smell and taste. The outside is spare-- even the metal hanging sign bearing the place's name is low-key. Open the door and there is a feast for the eyes: twisted metal chairs, wrought iron work, artisanal ceramics and, on the walls, a huge mural by Canadian artist Pierre Przysiezniak that takes its inspiration from a 15th century triptych, The Battle of San Romano, by Florentine painter Paolo Uccello. The artisan-crafted chairs, tables, pottery and wrought iron pieces were designed by owner Nathalie de la Fontaine.
The restaurant is on the slightly pricey side for what is basically a neighborhood restaurant. In the evening lights are dim (and staff keep dimming them further) and it's a place that broadcasts "adults only." The pastas, all made in-house, are the real stars of the show and you'd miss a lot if you ignore them.
My dinner companions and I paid attention to our incredibly enthusiastic waitperson who urged us to indulge in the scallop with white beans and the stuffed mushroom appetizers and were delighted we did. The scallops were sweet, tender and complemented by the sturdy beans beneath; the large mushroom caps held an incredibly tasty filling that included duxelles. a mix of mushrooms, herbs and shallots sautéed in butter. Nearby diners seemed happy with salads and the scent of passing Tuscan tomato soup was wonderful. From there we moved to pasta which is overseen by Chef Peter Graziano, formerly of Barolo, who oversees all preparations. Pasta is hand rolled daily using traditional methods. Among the offerings are Strozzapreti alle Cime di Rapa, a dish from the Emilia Romagna region with broccoli rabe and anchovies brightening the long "priest strangler" tubes. (The pasta's name is in dispute; one theory holds that gluttonous priests ate this dish so fast they choked.) Whatever the name, it's fabulous. I was lured by the Spaghetti alla Chitarra Fruti di Marea, pasta cloaked in tomato sauce liberally punctuated by clams, mussels, calamari, shrimp and other fishy bits. There is a risotto of the day as well as chicken, veal and fish but this is spot where pasta begs to be enjoyed. Individual pizza are available ranging from a Margherita with truly fresh mozzarella to a grilled vegetable version to one including spicy sopressata.
In nice weather, Machiavelli has a sidewalk cafe as befits a dining spot so close to Central Park you can easily walk from one to the other. Live piano music, both classical and jazz and sometimes presented by students of the nearby Mannes College of Music, is in the air starting at 8 PM. There is a Jazz Brunch on Sundays with music at 1 PM. Besides large dinner crowds, the restaurant has a following of folks who use it as a spot for coffee. The breakfast menu, featuring pastries from Mille Feuille Bakery, also produces treats like lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberries and a very popular open frittata with goat cheese and sweet Italian sausage, is available until 4 PM. For private events, the communal table seats twelve; the back of the room can handle thirty and the entire space is available as a buy-out.
Review By: Mari Gold