Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bits & Morsels: Da Silvano, Navy Beach, Serafina

Gnocchi with white truffle sauce at Da Silvano.

by Erin Frankel

Da Silvano is in the midst of celebrating its 36th year in New York. Long an institution, it is still one of the most exciting Italian restaurants in New York City. You are sure to find the city’s fashion, media, and art-world elite (and wannabes) inside its two rooms and popular annex next door. But on a warm summer evening, sitting outside along the broad stretch of 6th Avenue offers one of best people-watching sites in New York City. On our Monday evening visit, we met Londoner Matt Richardson, an attractive professional golfer who just qualified for a second straight U.S. Open.

In addition to the intoxicating vibe, Da Silvano’s food has been a steady favorite for many New Yorkers. The menu features a slew of daily specials and favorite regional classics using imported fresh ingredients. I suggest you order at least one or two dishes off their daily specials, a list of inventive concoctions composed with the help Silvano Marchetto, himself.
Outside and inside Da Silvano.
On this visit, I decided to take the Silvano's lead. For starters, we went with three fresh and light specials: a rather unique poached asparagus topped with brown butter and parmesan cheese, the chilled octopus sprinkled with a delicate lemon-juice/olive oil dressing, and the crispy soft shell crab on top of mixed greens.

Da Silvano's astonishing array of new and creative pasta dishes is typically my incentive for dining here. We opted for Mr. Marchetto's two favorite specials: the lighter pappardelle topped with shitake, and the creamy and incredibly delicious gnocchi topped with a white summer truffle sauce. As for the entrées, we ordered the ethereal branzino. We then ended our dinner with a delectable crème brûlée and a serving of cold, light sorbet, perfect for a summer evening.
Poached asparagus with brown butter and Parmesan cheese.
Chilled octopus sprinkled with a delicate lemon-juice/olive oil dressing.
Crispy soft shell crab on top of mixed greens.
The Branzino.
Pappardelle with shitake.
On most evenings, you will see Silvano Marchetto walking from table to table greeting both familiar faces and newcomers with his thick Florentine accent, surveying their tables, making timely suggestions on the menu, and just being his jovial self. When discussing his list of specials, he made it clear that Da Silvano is not just the classic Italian restaurant some people believe it to be. He is right. If you look closely at his seasonal menu, he makes spunky, updated renditions of traditional Italian dishes. And this is evident when you take a look at the clientele around you, both young and old, Manhattanites and tourists alike.

Da Silvano personifies everything you’d want out of a New York City summer dining experience; the dynamic vibe, the quality food, and the personable service. All top notch.

Da Silvano
260 Avenue of the Americas # 2

Crème brûlée at Da Silvano.
Where else I ate this week:

I am one of the many New Yorkers who flocks to the Hamptons each weekend over the warmer summer months, always interested in finding new restaurants with quality cuisine and a laid-back vibe. On my first weekend out East, I found two fairly new restaurants that pleased my balmy weather palette.

Navy Beach

The Southside at Navy Beach.
Silvano Marchetto’s daughter Leyla recently teamed up with Franklin Ferguson and Kristina Davis to open her own restaurant in Montauk called Navy Beach. Navy Beach is quite the opposite of her father’s flagship Da Silvano. It is a laid-back nautically-themed beachfront restaurant at the end of a long dirt road in Montauk, the Hamptons's least haughty town. The restaurant is situated on one of the most beautiful stretches of the bay, giving people an exquisite view of the sun setting, which is the best time to go (now around 7:30pm). And on warmer evenings, you can park yourself at one of the more casual tables along the 200-foot beach.

Ambience aside, one of the reasons for coming to Navy Beach is for their unique summer cocktails and the light, fresh seafood. I recommend the signature Southside, which can be made with your choice of gin or vodka mixed with mint and lemon/lime juice. It's a refreshing way to end your day and start your evening. Chef Paul La Bue has created a seasonal menu, featuring a variety of shellfish, grilled fish, and ceviche items in addition to some alternatives for the fish naysayers.

I suggest starting with the delicate and fresh tuna sashimi and avocado salad, the savory fish tacos topped with pico de gallo, and lime crema. For a sweeter option, try the Yunnan ribs sprinkled with black vinegar, chili, and caramel. For the more adventurous, a must-have is the new Singapore Lobster dish sprinkled with a sweet and spicy chili sauce, surrounded by Asian vegetables and crispy rice noodles. La Bue’s menu clearly draws from Asian and Latin American flavors, which makes this seafood beachside restaurant one of the more original creations in the Hamptons.

Navy Beach
16 Navy Road
Montauk, NY
Tuna sashimi salad.
Fish tacos with pico de gallo and lime crema.
Truffle mac and cheese.
Yunnan ribs with black vinegar, chili, and caramel.
Singapore lobster with Asian vegetables and crispy rice noodles.

Ten years ago, you would have found me and my girlfriends on 79th street and Madison Avenue at Serafina (aka Sofia’s back in those days). Now, us same four girls, still the closest of friends from our Nightingale years, are transplanted to Serafina’s newest location in East Hampton.

The only difference: Now we start our meal with an alcoholic beverage, in particular Serafina’s new signature summer cocktail, a refreshingly sweet concoction made with three muddled strawberries, simple syrup, St. Germain, and Grey Goose.

Serafina’s new summer cocktail.
For dinner, we go with a few old-school, timeless favorites along with a couple of new items on the menu. We started with the classic Di Sophia, Serafina’s lighter version of a Caesar Salad, the imported buffalo mozzarella with tomato and basil, and the artichoke salad sprinkled with a zesty lemon-olive oil salad dressing.

Serafina has always had an extensive pasta selection but thrives on the simple classics like our favorite garganelli al pomodorini di collina, otherwise known as homemade penne topped with imported Italian hillside ripe cherry tomatoes & fresh basil.

As for our entrées, we go with two time-honored dishes: the grilled marinated chicken breast paillard on top of mixed greens and drizzled with a light lemon/olive oil dressing, and the veal scaloppini with lemon, capers, parsley and a delicate Pinot Grigio sauce. We are also rewarded for moving beyond our comfort level in ordering the grilled Atlantic salmon over crispy leaks and spinach served with a champagne mustard sauce.

Serafina has never let us down.

Serafina East Hampton
104 North Main Street,
East Hampton, NY
White Truffle Pizza.
Di Sofia (Serafina's caesar salad).
Imported buffalo mozzarella with tomato and basil.
Artichoke salad.
Garganelli al pomodorini di collina.
Grilled Atlantic salmon over crispy leaks and spinach served with a champagne mustard sauce.
Grilled marinated chicken breast paillard.
Veal scaloppini (please excuse the steam!).
Tiramisu for 4.
Photographs by Erin Frankel.
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