Gradisca is tucked away on a cozy block in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, and is about everything you can hope for in a neighborhood Italian spot. We recently had the opportunity to dine there at the invitation of the restaurant, and left very impressed with the work of new chef John Creger, who was most recently executive sous chef at Le Cirque.
The space that’s home to Gradisca has a history dating back more than 60 years; it was a fancy Italian spot in the 40s and 50s, a cabaret in the 60s and 70s, and a jazz supper club in the 80s and 90s before the trattoria opened in 2000. Today, it's dim, red, romantic, and undeniably sexy.
Chef Creger has given the menu a facelift and added some stellar new standouts that are worth seeking out. He’s added a savory crème brulee de pecorino; a tender and smoky grilled Gulf octopus served with quinoa and a squash fritter; mazzelune do sfoglia alla zucca (pumpkin pasta filled with ricotta and Swiss chard, with mushrooms in a sage brown butter sauce); squid ink tagliatelle; and a standout brasato di Wagyu al Barolo (a hunk of beef short rib braised in Barolo and served with polenta, peas, and sage). The beef is fork-tender and not overpowered by the sauce; it’s rich, but about as ideal a warm-weather dish as it gets.
If you’re a fan of the restaurant’s classic menu, never fear: plenty of the standbys are still there, and they’re just as good as always. Pastas are all handmade (don’t miss the bucatini carbonara, which thankfully sticks to the original, just-about-perfect formula), and the tortellini in brodo is timeless.
One addition we’d suggest if you can spring for it is the new Chef’s Tasting Menu, which costs $80. Let Creger plan your meal for you; you won’t be disappointed.
If a restaurant wants to stay current, it can’t rest on its laurels and always needs to keep looking forward. Gradisca could have easily faded into mediocrity by this point, but as is evidenced by its delicious fare and new chef, it’s still got plenty of life left in it.