"Apple Pie" to America is what "Cipriani" is to New York City. As the Founder of Harry's Bar in Venice, Giuseppe Cipriani was a key figure in the pin-strip swag and pearl grace of the early New York City. As mandatory as is a Nathan's hot dog or a slice of Junior's Cheesecake, Cipriani is a must for food enthusiasts visiting Manhattan.
Personally I have never been to the famed restaurant. I vicariously live through the media reports of Jay-Z, Robert De Niro and the Wall Street elite eating great meals there. Because I didn't have time to get to the Wall Street Cipriani, I decided Cipriani Dolci in Grand Central would be a worthy substitute. After all, it is owned by the same people.
Dolci has its own memorable atmosphere with perfect views; it is elevated above the scurried feet of Grand Central. As I took my seat along the marbled wall, I awed at the beaux arts architecture. It may not be the original Cipriani, but this was going to be a close relative.
I was not inspired by the pre fixe menu. To me, this was the opportunity to show off what your restaurant is all about. Maybe the simplicity of the menu meant each selection would be prepared with the love and care of a Sicilian grandmother....Sbagliato (wrong)!
Maybe my expectations were too much, but I expected fresh baked Italian bread. Instead I slathered as much butter as I could on day-old french bread. The bread sticks become a wand that I wished would magically start the night over.
Our first course: Proscuitto Cotto with Mozzarella de bufala and Burrata de bufala with Tomato and Basil. I know Proscuitto is uncooked but the off-putting texture of this proscuitto was upsetting. Maybe the kid scrambled sauce on top was an attempt to mask a dull flavor. I grabbed another bread stick (hocus pocus give this meal some focus)!
Our next course should have been a walk in the park for an Italian restaurant. We chose the Sea Bass and Lobster Risotto. A beautifully grilled sea bass would have been delightful. Instead I got an over-smoked, bland piece of fish with nothing on the plate to save it. I know Northern Italian is more about quality than presentation, but can I get a sprig of parsley? A wedge of lemon? lime? orange? This fish needed beauty on the outside and inside. The accompanying Broccoli Rabe was like a bitter plate of "Oscar the Grouch"! Again I searched for any effort on presentation.
Mama Mia! Was that risotto? Bite after bite, I milled the bland risotto around in my mouth as my taste buds searched for flavor. Cooked past done, the risotto took on a porridge-like consistency. Instead of succulent chunks of lobster, I got specks of crustacean. In my Gordon Ramsey voice "taste the risotto!" I grabbed another bread stick.
It is saying a lot if I have no interest in dessert. The fact that I had to swivel my neck left and right to find my waiter did not help. Heartbroken from the mere sight of the cake, I closed my eyes and prayed it was not as dry as it looked. True to form the overly dense dark chocolate cake was too aggressive for me. I sipped the only highlight of the meal, my Bellini.
Realizing I had a visible frown on my face, I put on a poker face and managed a grin when asked about the meal. I rolled my eyes as I signed the check. Next time I'll take my Bellini and head upstairs to the bar/lounge, The Campbell Apartment for nuts and pretzels. 1 and 1/2 forks Cippy!