Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bits & Morsels goes to Cellini, Fig & Olive, Opus

The perfect bite of mushroom ravioli at Cellini.

Last Saturday night I went to Cellini, located at 65 East 54th Street. For a restaurant located in midtown, Cellini has more of a homey downtown vibe; plus it was busy, really busy. Pleasantly surprising, since most midtown restaurants are pronounced dead on the weekends, especially at dinnertime. The chef/owner of Cellini is Dino Arpaia and his presence in the restaurant really makes customers feel most welcome. And the service at Cellini was wonderfully accommodating.

To start, I sampled the Burrata and the Bianca salad of endives, artichokes, hearts of palm, mushrooms, and parmesan cheese. I could easily live on Burrata cheese. Burrata is a cheese in which the outside casing is mozzarella and where the inside is a blend of mozzarella and cream. At Cellini it is served with arugula and tomatoes. One of the night's specials was wild mushroom ravioli with peas and toasted almonds. Earthy, fragrant, smooth, and delectable. If you enjoy veal, someone at the next table ordered veal Milanese that smelled awesome and was inhaled in a matter of minutes. For dessert the ricotta cheesecake is the way to go. Hello again, Midtown. [Cellini]
Olives, cheese, and bruschetta. Veal Milanese.
Bianca salad: endives, artichokes, hearts of palm, white mushrooms, shaved parmesan. Burrata cheese with arugula and tomatoes.
Wild mushroom ravioli with peas and toasted almonds. Snowing parmesan on pasta with tomato sauce.
Dino Arpaia and daughter Sophia. Spaghetti and meatballs.
Tiramisu, ricotta cheesecake, and pecan pie. Cappuccino.
On Sunday I went for a light brunch to Fig & Olive. Fig & Olive serves very clean and simple Mediterranean food. You can also order as much or as little as you please. If you just want a snack to tide you over, you can order some crostini, vegetables or a cheese plate. I find myself often meeting friends there for drinks and a snack when I don’t want to be stuck for a whole dinner. They have locations on Fifth Avenue, in the Meatpacking District and uptown at 808 Lexington Avenue.

The atmosphere at Fig & Olive is very zen. Even when it is busy, it is never chaotic. As the name would suggest a lot of the food contains figs, olives, and olive oil. The bread is served with three varieties of olive oil and fig spread comes with a lot of items. They also sell a selection of olive oils and spreads in the restaurant. My one peeve with Fig and Olive is that they always seem to be sold out of the fig jam that they serve with their cheese plate. My go-to dish at Fig & Olive is the crostini. You can choose from salmon with ricotta cheese, avocado with radish and pine nuts, manchego cheese with fig spread and Marcona almond (my favorite) and many more. My routine at Fig & Olive: a cappuccino, three of those manchego crostinis and a blueberry tart. [Fig & Olive]
Clockwise from top left: Outside Fig & Olive; The bar; Crostinis ... manchego and fig spread, salmon and ricotta, porcini mushroom; Manchego and fig spread crostini up close; Olive oil tasting ranging from light to heavy (green); Inside Fig & Olive.
Fig and gorgonzola tartlet. Arugula salad with roasted vegetables.
Inside Fig & Olive; Blueberry tart.
*New addition to the neighborhood. Opus recently opened at 1574 Second Ave. This new Italian restaurant owned by Enzo Lentini is unique in that they offer many gluten-free dishes. Their gluten-free corn pasta will fool (almost) anyone into thinking it’s the real deal. Opus, 1574 Second Avenue, (212) 772-2220.
Clockwise from top left: Corn pasta with tomato sauce; Inside Opus; Pizza with arugula and prosciutto; Owner Enzo Lentini; Cheese calzone.
Russ & Daughters is a New York icon which has been open since 1914. They just launched a blog on their website which will have stories, pictures and all things having to do with Russ & Daughters. [Lox Populi]

Here are the three chefs that might become the new White House chef for the Obama administration. The three talented contenders are Rick Bayless, Daniel Young, and Art Smith. My vote is for Art Smith. I went to his restaurant Table 52 last year and it is one of my all time favorite dining experiences. [The Daily News] [Table 52 on NYSD]

Good news if you like beer. Students at Rice University are brewing a beer that contains resveratrol. This is found in red wine and is said to protect against diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Cheers! [Al Dente]

Until we eat again,
Jordana Z.

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