There is something to be said about true, flawless Italian cuisine that is created by a passionate, talented chef who has sacrificed a lot to get where he is — meet chef Jim Burke. He travelled extensively around Italy staying with families, learning, soaking in all the riches of that country and now brings these acquired "riches" to Caffè Storico — not your ordinary Museum grub. The restaurant is located in the New York Historical Society in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and is restaurateur Stephen Starr’s latest Big Apple opening. Chef Burke has caused a quite an explosion with his Italian cuisine. He offers diversity in the menu, with a varietal of cicchetti, as well as homemade pastas and main entrées.
The word, "cicchetti" doesn't mean much to people (most people have probably never heard of it), but for Venetians, it is what hot dogs are to New Yorkers — they stop by their local bacaro to sample a snack and a quick sip of vino bianco, a practice known as "andar per ombre," which translates to "go to the shade." People buzz in during the day and sit at the bar and sample a variety of delectable cicchetti like fried langoustines with grapefruit supremes and crème ricotta, a King Crab salad , as well as hearty meatballs with hints of fresh parsley and oregano smothered in tomato sauce. There's fried arancini and a creamy burrata coupled with fried artichokes. Chef Burke forces his cooking expertise on the customer with joy and solid hard work... it doesn't disappoint.
Standing guard at the line, chef Burke is the maestro of a talented staff that have the gift of passion to make great food for people who appreciate it. Mr. Burke's passion is pasta — all are handmade and you pretty much need to try them all. Try the pappardelle with duck ragú, a sweet, savory pretty much perfect dish that is "one-of-a-kind!" The cavatelli consists of a ricotta, chive, and lemon zest vehicle of pasta coupled with black trumpet mushrooms and sweet lobster — delightful! Try the artichoke-filled mezzaluna, a somewhat boring and annoying to prepare vegetable is turned into magical pillows of half-moon heaven with a punch of lemon zest and earthy porcini mushrooms and parsley. The gnocchi gratinata is baked with a rich black truffle fonduta — decadent and well executed. An oxtail-filled agnolotti — new to the menu — shines with several perfect pasta morsels topped with shaved horseradish.
Roast chicken is not the first thing most people order when dining out, but this dish is outstanding — a succulent bird, brined for two days in a classic salt and sugar brine with garlic and lemon then slowly roasted with fennel. It comes to the plate, sliced in slabs of juicy whiteness, skin crispy and tanned, it's placed on a bed of fennel and chanterelles, which unfortunately lacked as an accompaniment. The roasted sea bass is a decent dish, served with flavorful cannellini beans and picked herb salad littered with mint, basil, and parsley.
Mr. Burke elevates Caffè Storico as a fresh new look at comfort, sophisticated, and Italian cuisine driven by years of experience and passion for food. The warm staff welcomes you into an open space with sexy plush canary yellow banquettes, dripping gold chandeliers, and a touch of crockery history. People should be so lucky to sample. I was.