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Uptown Glamour and Tortellini Pie at Leonti

Curated for you via The New Yorker.

Perhaps woman cannot live on bread alone, but after dinner at Leonti, a new restaurant on the Upper West Side, she cannot be blamed for wanting to. On a recent evening, an amuse-bouche of beef brodo, scented with cinnamon and served in porcelain tureens the size of eggcups, was followed by durum-wheat focaccia so good I could have made a meal of it. Sliced thinly, it bore a burnished bronze crust, slightly slick with olive oil, a bubbled, stretchy interior, the distinct tang of fermentation, and just the right amount of salt. It needed nothing, though a slather of perfectly tempered cultured butter made it that much more magnificent.

The chef, Adam Leonti, has a special penchant for grains, which he mills himself to make bread, pasta, and pastries, a practice he started as the chef de cuisine at Vetri Cucina, Marc Vetri’s acclaimed Italian restaurant in Philadelphia. In 2015, Leonti moved to New York to head up a new restaurant called Harvey, plus an accompanying bakery, mill, and cooking school, the Brooklyn Bread Lab, in Williamsburg. The opening stalled, but when he tried to move on the owners hit him with a lawsuit, owing to a noncompete clause in his contract.

Finally, he regained his freedom, and opened Leonti in November. The restaurant, which occupies the tony address where John Fraser’s Dovetail used to be, leans into its surroundings, offering a heady dose of a largely bygone uptown glamour. The dining room—inspired by the aesthetics of Milan and Bergamo, where Leonti lived for several years—is exceptionally luxurious, full of mid-century Italian design objects. Gracious servers in suits remove domed lids from silver platters with dramatic flair.

This all, of course, comes at a cost. An appetizer-size plate of pasta can set you back thirty-eight dollars; a roasted squab, sixty-five. If ever there were a special-occasion restaurant that feels worth the high price tag, though, this is it. New York has no shortage of excellent Italian restaurants, but, where most focus on perfecting familiar classics, Leonti gets boldly creative and excitingly esoteric.

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