Home > Restaurants, Travel > Italianissimo



[Cynthia Chung, New York Magazine]

Here we are, in New York. We woke up 3:50 Thursday morning for our 7:00 AM flight, landed at 3:00 PM, and spent twenty minutes at the gate waiting for the ground people to get the jetway door unlocked and the jetway properly aligned with the plane. I had the pleasure, early in our wait, of watching our two suitcases emerge first in line from below my seat and head down the conveyor belt. As we exited security, the carousel directly ahead on our left was ours and our two bags were right at that end of the belt. Never before had I walked out to find our bags within an arm’s reach.

By 4:45, we were in the corner room on the 9th floor of the Hotel Wales (subject of a post last October), on Madison and 92nd. Out two windows, we looked straight down 92nd and across 5th Avenue to Central Park and the reservoir At a right angle, out the other two, we looked south down Madison.


A couple of hours later, we were walking down Madison and then over to Italianissimo, an intimate Italian restaurant on 84th just east of 2nd that my cousin John had suggested we all meet at. Already there were John and Joan, plus my sister Gail and Jacques, in two days earlier from Paris.

It’s a lovely little place, with a row of tables along one wall and another along the opposite wall, leaving only a narrow path for staff and those heading to tables farther back or the bar. We were at the second table in, right by the check-in counter and the door. (You can pretty well make out where we were in the photo above, on the right side just short of the window.) The restaurant profile in New York magazine from which I grabbed the photo describes Italianissimo as “a homey 12-table spot, enhanced by fresh flowers, exposed brick walls, and dusty bottles of wine strewn throughout.” I don’t recall eating at a place quite that small. Certainly not that narrow. The atmosphere and service were a delight.

I won’t try to recount what we all ate. I’ll just talk about my own choices. As usual at such a restaurant, my first decision is whether to have a full-sized pasta order as my main dish, with soup or salad or antipasta to start, or whether to have a small order of pasta followed by a meat or fish dish.

A week earlier, at Cafe Juanita (the subject of my last post), I went for the full pasta order. This time, I started with a half order of spaghetti carbonara, described as “Spaghetti with a touch of cream, cured Italian Bacon, onions, and parsley.” Excellent choice.

John had ordered a couple of plates of breaded zucchini for us all to share while eating our appetizers. It came with a tomato dipping sauce and was an unexpected treat. Oh, I should mention the wonderful basil dipping sauce that accompanied the bread.

For my main dish, I ordered the “Filetto di sogliola alla Francese,” or “Fresh fillet of sole sautéed with white wine lemon and butter.” It was served with a small scoop of mashed potato adorned with a homemade potato chip and with green beans. The sole was both light and rich at the same time, again excellent, and the potato chip, minor adornment that it was, was fantastic. Accompanying all this was a delicious Barolo that Jacques had selected.

I didn’t order dessert, but John chose an order of Tartufo Ice cream to be shared, and my two spoonfuls were plenty.

As we were finishing dessert, Joel arrived, having flown into LaGuardia from North Carolina and taken a taxi straight to the restaurant. It was 9:15 by then, but we were in no hurry, so he ordered the daily pasta special, along with a glass of Montepulciano.

Gail reminds me that she had the salad special, consisting of lobster, avocado, and tomatoes on endive, followed by one of the entree specials, chicken on the bone with sausage and a balsamic reduction, accompanied by those same mashed potatoes and green beans.

A pretty good meal, all in all. I’d be happy to return. But in fact, if we were staying at the Wales again, I might rather just go downstairs to Paola’s, which sits eight floors below the hotel room we were in and which we have loved in the past. (See this earlier post.) I was going to suggest Paola’s to John as an alternative once we selected our hotel, but it was already booked for the evening.

In any case, we had a great evening, capped by the arrival of our son, the best dessert of all.

Categories: Restaurants, Travel
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