1109 First Ave (61st St)
City: New York, NY
Phone: (212) 588-0100
Hours: Mon-Sat 12-3pm, 5-11pm
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Chef: Giuseppe Castellano
Area: East 60s
If you're walking along First Avenue between 60th and 61st Streets, you could easily pass Tiella without noticing as the exterior is quiet and shoehorned between other businesses.
If you go in, it's a very pleasant space, smallish with a brick wall on one side. Music is playing but not at ear-piercing decibels. It can get crowded at peak hours so a reservation, mostly for dinner, isn't a bad idea. Once seated, a waiter approaches in a pleasant, non-pushy manner and takes a drink order. Bruscetta appear as does a bread basket with good, crusty hunks and excellent breadsticks that seem homemade even if they're not.
At both lunch and dinner there are pizzas --the usual suspects including Sorrentina with smoked mozzarella, tomatoes and eggplant. There's a $24.50 lunch prix fixe with good choices for all three courses. Appetizer dinner offerings include a mousse of speck and fois gras that's slightly decadent and a mere $14, as well as Cavoletti E Salsiccia that boils down to mozzarella accompanied by Brussels sprouts and sausage that's a complete winner. You can start with a salad like the kale with golden raisins I ate or the arugula with goat cheese in a lemony dressing that my companion thought delicious.
The pasta here is house made and those I've eaten were cooked correctly so they have a touch of chew. Paperadelle sits under a short rib ragu with small hunks of the meat; there is a unusual risotto made with the liqueur Cynar which has an artichoke taste, livened with more chokes and pancetta that's worth trying unless you're anti-artichoke, and there are others (not always on the menu, you'll hear about specials) like lobster fettuccini with pink peppercorns.
Entrees include fish, often offered as a special, wild boar stew, lamb shank and a seared duck breast with a fig-balsamic sauce.
A full bar provides drinks with a very decent selection of wines by the glass or bottle.
It's hard to find a restaurant this good in this stretch of the UES even if this one is practically under the Queensboro Bridge, (OK, the Ed Koch if you must), but here it is, serving way above average Italian food. Tiella would make a good date spot and seems to have lots of diners from the neighborhood and probably plenty who need soothing after a bout at Bed, Bath and Beyond across the street.
A tiella is a cast-iron pan used to produce appetizer-ish pizza-like creations. It's an apt moniker for this restaurant that has elevated southern Italian food thanks to Executive Chef Giuseppe Castellano with partner Mario Coppola. Kudos to Chef Castellano who was named a "top 40 under 40" talent by the James Beard Foundation.
Tiella serves lunch Monday through Saturday from noon to 3 PM; dinner Sunday from 5 to 10 PM and up to 11 at night Monday through Saturday. All credit cards accepted.
Review By: Mari Gold