Summer Simplicity at New York City's Il Gattopardo
After a cool and damp few months, the iconic Italian restaurant Il Gattopardo has released their Spring/Summer menu just in time to welcome the recent warm weather. Sitting at the foot of the historically landmarked Rockefeller Townhouses on 54th street in Midtown Manhattan, Il Gattopardo offers diners a relaxed setting in which to have an elegant meal.
The new menu reflects chef Vito Gnazzo’s inventive take on classic southern Italian cooking using fresh seasonal ingredients. It includes five outstanding additions to the long-standing crowd favorites regular customers have come to know and love, and like any great southern Italian summer menu it has plenty of options from the sea.
The grilled octopus appetizer with fingerling potatoes, celery hearts, and Castelvetrano olives is cooked to the perfect tenderness. Chef Gnazzo and his team deftly balance the textures of briny octopus with crispy yet creamy potatoes and crunchy celery hearts to create a dish of pure summer simplicity. If you’re more in the mood for a first course from the farm rather than from the sea the Parmigiana of zucchini with smoked mozzarella, tomato sauce, and fresh basil is a must, offering a fresh take on a beloved classic.
Simple, elegant execution of summer ingredients is a running theme in the new menu, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the crudo di branzino. Amazingly fresh Mediterranean sea bass is finely chopped and marinated in extra virgin olive oil from Cilento and lemon juice, and served over a salad of mâche and sliced fennel. The greens offer a nutty sweetness to counter the pleasantly tart marinated bass.
A frontrunner of the menu is the potato and farro gnocchi with piennolo del Vesuvio tomatoes and scamorza cheese. The dish combines hearty gnocchi with particularly sweet cherry tomatoes grown only in the rich volcanic soil surrounding Mount Vesuvius with scamorza cheese, which believe it or not actually melts better and offers a more interestingly piquant flavor than traditional mozzarella.
For main courses look no further than the veal braciola, or if you’re still in the mood for fish the gently poached wild red snapper. The snapper is served with clams and mussels in a spring vegetable brodetto that is the perfect complement to the warm weather and a glass of white wine. The veal is stuffed with baby artichoke and provola chees, then pan seared to a deep golden brown and served with celery root puree and sautéed spinach. Chef Gnazzo scents the veal with fennel pollen that he personally harvests on his rural property in Salerno, giving diners a true taste of the place he calls home.
To round out their warm weather offering, Il Gattopardo partnered with renowned Italian pastry chef Pietro Macellaro to create the season’s dessert menu. Of particular note is the Bavarese of eggplant and pistacchio di Bronte covered in chocolate. The combination of rich chocolate and pistachios makes you entirely forget you’re actually eating a dessert that's very nearly healthy for you! The Cassata Siciliana is another very dependable option, with an impossibly fluffy texture, sweet glaze, and a garnish of dark chocolate sauce.
No Italian meal is complete without a healthy pour of a well-paired wine, and in that category Il Gattopardo also excels. Owner Gianfranco Sorrentino hand selects every bottle for all three of his NYC restaurants and tailors each wine list to the particular flair of each restaurant. At Il Gattopardo Sorrentino focuses on wines from the south of Italy, especially Campania, and rightfully so; the natural complement between edible and potable products of the same terroir creates magic in the mouth.
The wine list at Il Gattopardo offers something for every palate and for every budget, with bottles carefully selected by Sorrentino ranging from $28 a bottle to $1900. More important than the price tag is the story behind the wine. “We also want to know the ‘where, how, when, and why’ behind each wine,” says Sorrentino. “We explore the story of the winemaker, and typically favor the small, artisanal producer of the larger, more industrial producers. We make our selections with a great amount of passion and care.”
Il Gattopardo offers a welcome sanctuary to the hustle and bustle of midtown Manhattan, where guests can enjoy some of the warmest hospitality the city has to offer. Sorrentino, chef Gnazzo, and the rest of the team at Il Gattopardo make it look easy to provide refined southern Italian cuisine in an upscale yet relaxed setting.