Lattanzi Ristorante Italiano
361 West 46 Street
New York, NY
My experiences in New York City are very limited and thus the confidence and knowledge I have about where the good places are to eat is still very much a work in progress. So much so that I didn’t even realize that I’d stumbled upon “Restaurant Row”, a stretch of 46th street in the theater district, which is home to a compact area of assorted restaurants. With no set plan and aimless wandering on a photo walk just to get a feel for this part of town, we came upon this area with empty stomachs and just as the sun was setting and the scene was turning dark. It was later that I learned that there is a general consensus that this area is not considered the best of what NYC has to offer, but I did appreciate the look and feel of this strip, especially for its cozy setup and ease of access to several restaurants to eat at. For the lazy visitor to the city, its a welcome arrangement. And in the mood for Italian, Lattanzi appeared before us and we stepped inside.
Without a reservation, we were asked to have a seat at the bar just down the stairs from the street side entrance, and it was about fifteen minutes before a table opened up. Typical New York, as the other patrons enjoying a drink included a pair of talkative and flirty cougars who were pounding back martinis and clearly were inebriated, and a trio of artsy-types going over some sketches of what looked to be an interior design project. To complete the Italian experience, the bartender was a greasy, slicked back hair fellow, with a notable Italian accent. While waiting, it was interesting to see the clientele of this place dining inside – some older couples and groups, obvious casually dressed tourists, and then several really attractive models and their entourages had overtaken the second floor area.
Led through the dark dining rooms to our table, lit by a cheap cloth covered hanging light, our male server presented two separate menus – the regular dinner, and a unique Italian-Jewish menu. When asked what was the difference, and asking if it was kosher, he mumbled yes as if he didn’t have much confidence in what he was saying and didn’t elaborate and simply walked away. Later when he returned and upon hearing about some various specials of the day from our well attired server, there was one that piqued my interest in the fresh tuna salad, topped with sliced avocado and capers, with a light, refreshing vinaigrette. The buttery texture of the avocado played well in conjunction with the tuna, and the flavor was balanced by the acidity from the squirt of lemon and dressing, and the saltiness of the capers. As a starter, this was prefect in terms of volume in a very shallow plate.
Risotto is something that I’ve struggled to really enjoy in restaurants. Mainly because I’ve never had an excellent one. In many respects, I have the same dilemma with paella. Is it that rice-based dishes are really hard to perfect? Thinking I might be in for another disappointment and not wanting to have pasta or a big piece of meat again, I bit the bullet and asked for the risotto ai frutti di mare (seafood risotto). Fortunately, my fears didn’t come true as what I had was quite good. Soft textured, not overcooked ingredients such as the squid that and shrimp (which is usually not the case, as so many places overdo these sensitive seafood items), a balanced tomato broth that was not overloaded with salt in a feeble attempt to compensate for a lack of infused flavor, and well cooked through rice (no chalkiness at all). I cannot confidently state that this is the best risotto around, but it was one of the more satisfying ones that I have personally eaten in a restaurant, as by the end of it I was still craving more.
To close my meal and rinse out any lingering aftertastes since the wine had stopped flowing, I ordered a tart lemon sorbetto. It came served in an actual hollowed out lemon shell, frozen rock solid. Obviously pre-prepared. As a result, it was a bit “stiff” for my liking. Sharp and tart as a lemon flavored thing should be but something was missing for me. I think it was the solid consistency, the icy crystals were just too condensed and cutting through it with the small spoon became to be quite the chore. Not the way I wanted to conclude my relaxing dinner.
All in all, I rather enjoyed my complete meal here at this rustic, old school-feel and decor ristorante. I’m sure there is part of me that is curious about other places on this same strip, despite the negative comments that surround this general area as being too touristy.