Ravioli

Jason Greenspan 

Celebrating Five Years with New York City’s Machiavelli

The Italian eatery has earned its place in the heart of the Upper West Side and the stomachs of all who return again and again

As a journalist, you tend to be wary of restaurants that claim to “transport you from the bustling streets of New York City to Italy” or serve “some of the best lamb chops in the entire city.”

But when you find, three hours and four courses later, that they’re telling the truth, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due.

Despite being five years late to the party, celebrating the anniversary of Upper West Side’s Machiavelli as a newcomer was an experience marked by attention to detail—iced tea flavored with cinnamon and currants, lamb chops imported from Colorado, and live music and opera from both seasoned musicians and students from nearby Juilliard and Lincoln Center.

“At first people were somewhat intimidated by the "velvety" décor but came to realize that we are very much a trattoria and very comfortable and relaxed,” said Owner Nathalie de la Fontaine. “Over the last five years, we’ve become more focused on ‘old world’ traditional cooking and quality.”

Despite the wide variety of offerings on the menu, each dish is flawless in its execution: to put it simply, in this case, more is better.

Among the pasta options—made by an in house "sfolino," or person who hand-rolls pasta—you can’t go wrong with the pumpkin ravioli, which feels more like dessert than a wholesome meal, or the casunzei “ampezzani,” a dish whose inspiration was taken straight from owner Nathalie De La Fontaine’s visit Dolomite region of the Alps. It’s prepared by filling mezzaluna pasta with red beets and ricotta and coating them in a light butter and poppy seed sauce. Real talk, it had our dining companion scraping the plate. It was kind of embarrassing, but we understood.

Nothing compares, though, to the soft-as-silk creation known as the sformato di spinaci a creamy, flavorful, and fluffy spinach and ricotta flan nestled beneath a truffle-scented fonduta cheese sauce that creates a light, almost marshmallow-like shell that holds it all together. In its description on the menu, and even in photos, it may connote visions of heavier, oilier textures, but stick your fork in it and you’ll see what we mean.

Chef Gian Pietro Ferro reimagines countless other staples found in classic Northern Italian cuisine to create seasonal, market-driven dishes for the rotating menu, like

the zuppa di pesce, a traditional Italian fish stew with mussels, clams, squid, shrimps, and scallops in a tomato wine broth, and a pleasing variety of pizzas.  

For an Italian brunch on weekends, consider savory dishes like uova alla Florentina, poached eggs over fresh spinach, fonduta cheese sauce and crispy polenta cake, or sweet options such as Panettone French toast al Grand Marnier, sweet Italian bread with candied fruit and raisins topped with an orange Grand Marnier liqueur sauce.

“Unlike most people who open restaurants these days, with big names, backers and big money, or under the umbrella of franchises, I was a single mom with limited means and a passion,” de la Fontaine said. “It took years of determination, and was developed pretty much by word of mouth.”

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