[First, please notice the addition of a new category: Eating New York! Yes the time has come ladies and gentlemen. Only three months away before I move from Dixieland to Yankeetown. Oy can hoydly wait.]
As you may recall, last week my parents declared their love for ‘Cesca. They told me I had to go when I came to New York this week. Then they decided to come with me. And so tonight we went to ‘Cesca.
‘Cesca is located on the Upper West Side and is creating quite a stir there because up ’til this point, the Upper West Side had a bit of a sagging food culture. Now, apparently, business is booming. With this and Tom Valenti’s other pad, Ouest, Upper West Siders are eating like never before. Tonight we joined them.
The first thing to mention about ‘Cesca is the jovial, relaxed atmosphere. We walked in and right away the hostesses started to banter with us. I don’t recall the exact content of the bantering, but let me tell you: it was really good banter.
The walls are a rather soothing creme-colored with Medieval Times chandeliers hanging from above.
The bantering hostess led us to our table, near the back. We passed the wood-burning oven on the way:
The table was a half booth, half table situation. So mom and I sat on the booth side:
Dad sat on the table side (notice the Medieval Times chandelier in the back) (and why’s that guy got a napkin on his face?):
Our waiter came over and proved to be a good combination of knowledgable and fun. He put up with my mother’s inquiries of “what, honestly, is the best thing on the menu? Tell us the truth.” He revealed his amor for the pancetta-wrapped liver.
“Ugh,” said my mother.
My dad shook his head.
But I felt a tingling of inspiration. Did I not just challenge my readers to try food they hadn’t had before? (See The Upper Left Corner). Should I not now test my own capacity for the foreign and exotic? I quickly jumped at the opportunity and said: “I’ll have that!”
Mom and dad rather timidly ordered swordfish.
But first there were starters. Mom and I shared a scallop risotto with what might have been the best scallops I have ever tasted:
Notice the dark golden brown crust at the top of the scallops? They were perfectly caramelized. Both sweet and salty at the same time. I loved them.
Dad got the mozarella roasted red pepper salad he got last week:
Nice, but meager compared to our scallops.
The plates were cleared. Time passed. And then the moment of truth.
Mom and dad got their swordfish (not pictured).
And I got my liver:
Now for those of my parents’ generation, there’s nothing really shocking about liver. A staple of my father’s childhood, liver and onions doesn’t send a chill down his spine the way it does mine. And of course Jewish people–myself included–will occassionally tackle chopped liver (which, admittedly, IS good). I do have an anti-liver fanatic grandmother who, whenever someone orders chopped liver, announces with vigor: “Liver’s an organ meat!” Which, apparently, means that it will kill you.
But I’ve never eaten just a cooked liver, let alone one cooked with pancetta. I am a brave soul and I am here to tell you that: the pancetta part made it ok. I think just the liver itself would, as Grandma Cassandra predicted, kill me—not for its fatty content, but for its gamey body-part-tasting flavor. I mean it’s a flavor I could get used to, I suppose. But the pancetta–crispy, flavorful, almost sweet–masqued the liver’s bad qualities and amplified its good qualities. Plus the polenta was creamy and went great with the liver sauce. All in all, I’m glad I took the leap.
[My dad interjects: “What do you call a small piece of liver?” Anyone? Anyone? “A sliver.”]
For dessert we shared a marscapone cheesecake which was really nice and really light:
That sauce you see is bitter orange and it was a nice complement.
I can’t say that I loved my meal at ‘Cesca. I just really liked it. I wouldn’t run back there kicking scissor kicks in the air, like I had to do in my 6th grade production of “Oliver” during “Consider Yourself.” That I wouldn’t do. All in all I’d give it a firm, well-deserved ‘B.