If the objective is to eat, head to Burger King; however, if the idea is to dine in an elegant space, with near perfect service and delicious Italian cuisine, I am boldly suggesting that reservations be made at The Leopard des Artistes Restaurant on Manhattan’s Westside (1 West 67th Street).
There is eating (putting food into your mouth, chewing and swallowing) and then there is dining (the art, experience and cultural aspect of eating).
In 1918, the Hotel des Artistes was developed as an artist’s coop apartment building where residents included Noel Coward, Isadora Duncan, Norman Rockwell and John V. Lindsay. Since the apartments did not have kitchen, the restaurant provided meals for the tenants.
David Garth, a media consultant and a member of the board of directors of the Hotel des Artistes asked George Lang to take over the street-level restaurant in 1975, and it became an important part of the NY dining scene, frequented by celebrities, politicians, society posers as well as the rich and famous. It also offered the spot-on atmosphere for a mid-day tryst or a late-night drink after a performance at Lincoln Center.
In its current incarnation, the dark and romantic space has been transformed by Gianfranco and Paula Sorrentino (2011) into an open and charming southern Italian dining room.
The cavorting nymph murals painted by Howard Chandler Christy (1920s) have been restored (removing layers of nicotine from the voluptuous nudes), the carpets have been replaced with stone floors and some of the walls boast wood veneer. Even the Powder Room deserves a visit
“Fantasy Scenes with Naked Beauties,” painted by one of the building’s residents, Howard Chandler Christy, from the late 1920s to 1935. In the early 1930s, he met Elise Ford who became his model for the murals on Café des Artistes wall.
I recently had the good fortune to be invited to enjoy dinner at the Leopard. The dining adventure started with a glass of Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Trevisiol N.V. This is one of the most popular prosecco wines from the Glera grape, characterized by the clarity and finesse of the bubbles in the glass, the hint of white peaches, summer fruit and ripe apples to the nose and the light and refreshing acidity to the palate – making it a perfect apertivo.
Other wines served at dinner include Ciavolich Pecorino 2015, Bachgart Klaus Lemtsch and Marramiero Altare.
• Pecorino (little sheep) Ciavolich 2015: a light-skinned wine grape from Italy’s eastern coastal regions (Marche and Abruzzo). To the eye, straw-yellow with an elegant floral bouquet of jasmine with a hint of spice and licorice. The wine is dry and offers delicious minerality. The finish is fresh and crisp. Awarded Bronze: International Wine Challenge, 2015
• * Klaus Lentsch 2014 Bachgart Pinot Nero (Alto Adige)
• To the nose, blue flowers and crushed raspberries. On the palate, cloves, berries and red cherries, incense, smoke and fresh earth. Well-balanced with light tannins.
• Trebbiano D’Abruzzo 2013 Marramiero Altare. 100% Trebbiano Abruzzese
Trebbiano is a white grape from Italy (in France it is an important ingredient in Cognac and Armagnac).
Dante Marramiero unlocks the qualities of Trebbiano Abruzzese through research and development, and an intelligent understanding the winery’s unique location, in Rosciano, the hilly area to the west of the Pescara River. The Altare is a unique parcel of land where the grapes are harvested by hand. After the grapes arrive in the cellar, they undergo a cold soak of 12 hours before being separated from the skins and racked into new oak barrels to begin fermentation. After the fermentation, the wine ages in new oak barrels for 18 months, followed by a 12-month bottle refinement. The result: broad, rich and lush wine with remarkable balance.
Golden color to the eye with flecks of yellow, a delicate bouquet of yellow orchard fruits, pineapple, peach, honey and saffron to the nose with a hint of oak. Dry but fruit forward on the palate with a crisp acidity to the finish.
The dining experience moved on to salad that included roasted beets, cabbage, Copolini onions, Tuscan olives and octopus.
Pasta options included Il Gattopardo paccheri (pasta in the shape of very large tubes, originating from Campania and Calabria) and Busiate Trapanesi with seafood ragout and cherry tomatoes.
In addition to seasonal fruit tarts with vanilla sauce, guests may want to try Crostata di ricotta and chocolate chips, Budino di caramello with toasted Italian style meringue and coffee granite, the Red wine poached pear crostata with pistachio sauce, candied pistachios and vanilla gelato or the Artisanal gelati and sorbetti.
The Leopard des Artistes has made this guest very happy.
The service and ambiance of this upmarket dining spot is orchestrated by Henry Nekrasov. When you make your reservation, be sure to ask if he will be on premise – not only is he a marvel when it comes to addressing your foodie wishes and dreams, his charm and gracious hospitality add a delightful ambiance to the dining experience.
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