We received this exclusive first look at Joanne Trattoria, about to be opened on New York's Upper West Side by Joe and Cynthia Germanotta — Lady Gaga's mamma and pappa — with the following note attached: "Brad D. Rose is an Intellectual Property attorney in New York City and is the Chair of the Intellectual Property Department at Pryor Cashman LLP. An avowed 'foodie,' Brad works with the owners of Joanne Trattoria and many other restaurant owners, but has, nevertheless, written his fair and honest assessment about his experience at Joanne Trattoria." (Lady Gaga's real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.)
The first Friends and Family Dinner at Joanne Trattoria was last Friday evening. The space is warm and beautifully designed. Joe and Cynthia Germanotta are wonderful hosts and the restaurant staff did a serviceable, professional job with friendly smiles — not an easy task for an opening night anywhere. The Germanottas hired celebrity chef Art Smith (Oprah Winfrey's former chef and chef-owner of Table Fifty-Two in Chicago, Art and Soul in Washington, D.C., and Lyfe Kitchen in Palo Alto, Calif.) to helm the kitchen. The special Friends and Family menu, while deceivingly limited in scope upon my first impression, turned out to be a tour de force of dishes featuring foods from the land, sea, and air. Starters included heartwarming butternut squash soup, which was velvety and sublime. The house salad, a chopped insalta mista, was a mixture of crisp delicate greens, just the right amount of finely chopped olives, and a light lemon and extra-virgin olive oil dressing, topped with bits of Genoa salami and niblets of sharp provolone cheese. The perfect balance of crispy, salty, sweet, and sour. The salad in all of its glory should be ordered "as is" without deletion of any ingredient.
For mains, the branzino was light and airy, drizzled with lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil then delicately baked. Plain, but refreshingly light and heart-friendly (something to keep in mind as you indulge in fabulous "art"ery clogging bread pudding for dessert!). The osso bucco was fall-off-the bone-tender, served in a rich rosemary sauce laden with chunky winter vegetables. An instant classic especially on a cold, wintery January night. The humanely raised veal was delicious when paired with the house chianti classico riserva.
The buffalo chicken "scarpariello" is outstanding. It has all the making of traditional chicken scarpariello (crisp on the outside, tender on the inside), but with a hint of Frank's Red Hot sauce added in. The chicken was a hit. I generally loathe dark meat, but found myself gnawing at every ounce of chicken on the plate, inclusive of the deliciously plump and juicy thighs and legs. The micro-thin seven-layer mushroom lasagna with homemade noodles included seven varieties of exotic mushrooms baked in a porcini wine sauce (sans tomatoes) with homemade ricotta and a touch of goat cheese. This "pillow on a plate" was not only billowy, tasty, and light, but packed a huge punch of flavor with every bite.
The sides are served for two and come with every entrée. This evening's selections included "plate lickin' clean" pancetta roasted Brussels sprouts, Grandma's meatballs (a throwback, and delicious), and an al dente rigatoni with fresh tomato and basil sauce. All of the dishes were outstanding — each one was perfectly cooked and they could easily stand on their own as entrées (not just sides) any day. The house foccacia was like a mini pizza — warm, crispy, airy, and oozing with cheese and roasted vegetables. Southern-style bread pudding (an homage to Art Smith's roots as a Southern-raised chef) and Nutella sundaes for dessert were the perfect finishes to an amazing dinner.
Joanne Trattoria is a reflection of its owners, the Germanottas and Art Smith. Warm, inviting, tranquil, and homey in look and spirit. The refreshing news is that this next new Italian hot spot backs up its zen-like facade with inventive, quality, and expertly prepared culinary treats.
The 70-seat restaurant should be (and will be) overflowing with diners on a nightly basis.
Slideshow photos courtesy of Oleg March.