If You’re Feeling Fancy, Artsy, or Both, Head to The Leopard at des Artistes During New York City Restaurant Week
If you’re a food-lover who typically doesn’t fine-dine off of Central Park to enjoy some of New York City’s best Italian food, you’re in luck. Restaurant Week (which is now much longer than a week) is returning to New York City, making it the perfect time to visit the renowned The Leopard at des Artistes.
For NYC Restaurant Week Winter 2017, executive chef Vito Gnazzo will offer a trio of three-course dinner menus, each representing his favorite dishes from an Italian region: Piedmont, Puglia, and Le Isole (Sardinia & Sicilia).
Among the building’s many famous residents have been Isadora Duncan, the dancer; Noel Coward, the playwright; writer Fannie Hurst, who had a very large triplex penthouse; and artist Norman Rockwell. When the restaurant first opened in 1917, the Café des Artistes was designed for the residents of the Hotel des Artistes because the apartments lacked kitchens. The residents would buy their own groceries and give them to the chef to prepare.
The landmarked mural series splayed across the restaurant, “Fantasy Scenes with Naked Beauties,” was painted by Howard Chandler Christy, who also had his studio at the Hotel des Artistes. There are nine oil-on-canvas murals, with some mounted on wood and others directly on the wall. Since decades of cigar smoke wore away at the paint, Gianfranco Sorrentino and his wife, Paula, who bought the space from owner George Lang in 2011, had the murals restored to bring back their original vibrancy.
Here’s how the restaurant week menus ($42 per person) break down:
Week 1, Jan. 23 to 29: Piedmont
Choice of appetizer includes roasted red and yellow peppers marinated in salsa verde; borlotti bean and cabbage soup with country toasted bread; or veal tongue alla Piemontese over pickled vegetables and green organic salad. For the mains, choose among agnolotti filled with braised veal and ricotta, with red wine reduction and marjoram sauce; “Trota in carpione” white wine vinegar-marinated trout, Piemontese style with onions and celery; or soft polenta with sautéed porcini mushrooms and sweet Italian sausage. For dessert, options include panna cotta with raspberry sauce; “Torta alla gianduia,” a chocolate-hazelnut cake with caramel sauce; or artisanal gelati or sorbetti.
Week 2, Jan. 30 to Feb. 5: Puglia
Choice of appetizer includes “Lagane e ceci,” a traditional soup of chickpeas and homemade pasta; artichoke salad with olive oil and lemon over organic frisée and garnished with pecorino cheese; or bruschetta with stracciatella cheese and grape tomatoes over green salad. Main course is a choice of cuttlefish filled with mussels and breadcrumbs in light tomato sauce; roasted leg of lamb in red wine reduction, served with roasted potatoes and peas; or orecchiette pasta with broccoli rabe and anchovy sauce. For dessert, it’s a tough choice between crostata di ricotta and chocolate chips; “Le zeppole” deep-fried Italian-style doughnuts filled with vanilla custard; or artisanal gelati or sorbetti.
Week 3, Feb. 6 to 10: Le Isole (Sardinia & Sicilia)
Choice of appetizer includes fennel and citrus salad, with olive oil and white vinegar, garnished with Castelvetrano olives; soup of clams, mussels, and Sardinian fregola, in a light tomato broth; or “Crudo di tonno” tuna tartar with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon, and shallots dressing. Main course is a choice between “Malloreddus” country-style Sardinian gnocchi with sweet sausage, saffron ragout, and pecorino cheese; “Coniglio in agrodolce” slow-braised sweet-and-sour rabbit, served with mashed potatoes; or traditional couscous alla Trapanese with fish and shellfish ragout. Dessert options include “Cassata Siciliana” sponge cake filled with sheep ricotta, candid fruit, and chocolate chips; or bronte pistachio tart served with chocolate ice cream; or artisanal gelati or sorbetti.
As for Gnazzo, he began his culinary career in Milan at El Toula before working at the world-renowned three-Michelin-starred restaurant Antica Osteria del Ponte just outside Milan. After heading the kitchen at REX il Ristorante in Los Angeles, he moved east to be the executive chef at Bice Restaurant here in New York City, where he met restaurateur Gianfranco Sorrentino. In 1993, he became executive chef at Sette MoMA, then spent four years developing an “agritourism” project associated with La Locanda, the celebrated farm-to-table restaurant in the countryside of Salerno. Upon his return to the United States in 2001, he was tapped by Gianfranco and Paula Bolla-Sorrentino head Il Gattopardo.
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