If you want to know what kind of restaurant I do approve of, the kind of restaurant that embodies all I love about eating out, look no further than A Voce.
A Voce opened this year to great acclaim. It was one of the “hits” in the NYT restaurant round-up of “hits” and “misses” 2006. Its chef, Andrew Carmellini, was renowned for his work at Cafe Boulud and opened A Voce to showcase his love for all things Italian. Frank Bruni rewarded him with two shimmering stars. More importantly, A Voce is only two blocks from my apartment. So when it came to lunch on Friday with my parents (and Craig!), A Voce was the perfect choice.
Good food speaks for itself, that’s the sentence that came to me when our meal was over. You can talk about passion and design, you can study the lighting, the table arrangements, the attitude of the waiters and waitresses; hosts and hostesses (here, I should note: extremely friendly). But at the end of the day what makes a restaurant shine is the food and good food speaks for itself.
Look at this food.
Here’s the bread they gave us:
Perfect bread, and look at that artful bowl of olive oil.
Then the first course: we shared the famous meatballs, duck meatballs in a foie gras sauce.
How to describe the richness, the decadence that each meatball provided? Notice how each meatball glistens and is placed lovingly on a white sauce (what was it? I don’t remember) and topped, effortlessly (but thoughtfully) with celery leaves. More perfection.
There was vegetable antipasti:
There’s peppers and mozzarella and eggplant agrodolce (which means sweet and sour). Isn’t the presentation worth cheering about? And the taste totally hit the mark.
Don’t believe me? Ask my dad. He’s stubborn and wanted to go elsewhere, to a trendier Italian restaurant on Madison Avenue. But he sampled this food and submitted to its power: “The food here is great,” he said, without being prompted, without knowing he was to be quoted on an international powerhouse of a food blog. (Just kidding! Self-depracation!)
For our entrees, almost all of us had pasta. I had “My Grandmother’s Meat Ravioli with tomato and parmigiano.” The waitress said this was a signature dish:
The balance here was extraordinary. A big ball of meat wrapped lovingly in pasta dough and perfectly dressed, underneath, with a tangy tomato sauce.
Mom had angel hair pasta with shrimp:
The flavors were bright and vivid but not overwhelming. She really enjoyed hers.
Craig had corn ravioli which was so good and so sweet and so summery that I insisted he trade with me halfway through. “But I like mine,” he said.
“But don’t you want to try the meat ravioli? A real food lover would want to try both.”
It was a true achievement. (Craig agreed to switch but as he tasted mine, he said he liked his better. I wouldn’t let him have it back.)
But the real triumph was my dad’s. He declared this (and I’m not making this up): “The best chicken I ever had.”
What was it? I honestly don’t remember what it contained. All I know is that the meat was white meat and could have been dry and flavorless but on sampling dad’s beloved chicken I was overwhelmed by the flavor and texture. It was truly remarkable.
For dessert, I insisted we order the Italian doughnuts (bomboli?? I forget the word) and three out of four of us were glad I did.
I won’t say who the fourth was who refused to try a doughnut because they were too full (and because they wanted to save room for a snack later in the day), I’ll simply say that I, myself, was proud of my ability not to eat the remaining doughnuts. The one that I did eat was heavenly.
A Voce is a lovely restaurant, a real gem, and it makes the business look so easy. The formula is simple: treat people well and serve great food. What more could people ask for? To tell the truth: not much.