Last night I had the opportunity to experience a meal at Machiavelli, located on the Upper West Side on the corner of 85th Street. This restaurant is the passion product of restauranteur Nathalie de la Fontaine, who spent nearly 20 years as the owner of the West Village’s La Focaccia prior to opening this establishment, which is about five or six years old. To say that Machiavelli is one of the Upper West Side’s best kept secrets is an understatement. I was moved by the restaurant’s ambiance, its passion for the arts (there are fine paintings on the wall and a live pianist played during our meal) and most importantly, its mouth-watering, authentic Italian food.
But to be frank, the restaurant is as visually appealing as the food, which says a lot. I knew this from the moment I laid my eyes on the exterior, which is charming and well lit. Fontaine worked with artists to design the whole space. The menu states that the walls are covered in a painted canvas by Pierre Przysiezniak, inspired by the Renaissance painting of the Battle of San Romano by Paolo Uccello and motifs from the Palazzo Davanzati museum in Florence. Woodworkers and a blacksmith created the classically designed furniture, which is quite tasteful and comfortable at the same time. A ceramist made the pottery dishes; a glassblower made each unique glass sconce; and the restaurant’s Renaissance velvet drapes were hand painted. The result? Transporting.
The restaurant also has a music curator named Thomas Osuga who plans nightly music. Sit outside if you can and take in all the Renaissance style touches in; I assure you selections from the “Great American Songbook” and Italian opera will transport you to a place far, far away.
What Makes Machiavelli Unique
Italian food is so much more than spaghetti and pizza, but let me first say that Machiavelli also offers those dishes. The important thing to note here is that Machiavelli makes their own hand rolled pasta and brick oven pizza.
From our starters to the last savored bite, it was clear that every authentic Italian dish they produce is built upon the most basic yet most fresh and flavorful ingredients. The same way that we lingered over our meal is the same way Chef Gian Pietro and pasta maker Sfoglino clearly work. They’re firm believers in taking their time to make the deliciousness last, because indeed it did. So we, in turn, took our time eating our 3-course meal.
Chef Ferro’s enthusiasm and love for great Italian food is transparent. Before coming to Machiavelli, he spent the past three decades leading noteworthy kitchens throughout Manhattan, including Osteria al Doge and Trattoria Dell’Arte. If that is not an indication of his talent, I’m not sure what is. Those are some of the best Italian restaurants in Manhattan (I know from experience of having had many work lunches from both places in my time).
A Description of My Extraordinary Culinary Experience at Machiavelli
We started with an order of Schiacciata al Rosmarino, an oven-roasted flatbread drizzled with olive oil, sea salt, and fresh rosemary, as well as a glass of Prosecco. It’s a gorgeous combination. Then I moved on to try an antipasti: the Sformato di spinaci, a delicious dish with fresh ricotta and spinach flan topped with – get this! – white truffle scented fonduta cheese sauce. My dinner companion tried the caesar salad, which she swears by as one of the best she’s ever had. Other antipasti dishes include fried calamari, polenta, sautéed shrimp, and Caprese Classica, a combination of mozzarella and basil.
Then I moved onto my main course: Casunzei Ampezzani, made from red beet and ricotta mezzaluna coated in a light butter and poppy seed sauce, a specialty of the Dolomite region. Needless to say, it was delectable. My companion had Spaghetti Alla Chitarra Al Frutti Di Mare, a collection of seafood on pasta, which she devoured and declared as one of the best. Our palettes simply lit up with the savory tastes of Italian cooking. Other entrees include Taglierini Vegeteriani, Lasagna Verde Alla Bolognese, Pappardelle Alle Erbe Con Funghi, Gnocchi Tricolore e Pomodori Gialli and pizza made the traditional way with olive oil, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. I think I will return with my kids to try some of the pizzas, especially this one: Quattro Formaggi, since my kids are cheeseaholics.
Speaking of kids, brunch is served on the weekends throughout most of the day and the menu looks amazing. I can envision spending a day with the kids at The Museum of Natural History or Central Park and then heading to Machiavelli for a lunch or dinner,
Oh, and I can’t forget dessert, or as they call it on the menu, “Dolci”. We tried the Budino di Pane con Gelato, bread pudding with bananas, chocolate, caramel and walnuts served with vanilla gelato. It was beyond delicious and so creative. Other items include Tiramisu and Pyramide di Cioccolato – need I say more?! I think not.
Needless to say, we both left the restaurant very happy, and very full. Our hearts and bellies were blessed with the divine culinary sensations of Machiavelli, and we felt very fortunate. After I take the kids to try their pizza, I’ll report back.
Meanwhile, if you live or visit the Upper West Side, definitely make an effort to visit Machiavelli.
Location: 519 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10024
Phone Number: (212) 724-2658
Web site: http://machiavellinyc.com
Reservations are recommended.
Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary meal at Machiavelli to facilitate this review and others, but all opinions are my own.