Montenapo Restaurant Review


Last week, I had the pleasure of dining at Montenapo, the newly opened Italian restaurant housed within the Renzo Piano New York Times building in Midtown. The restaurant, which has been open for approximately two months now, is run by Jozef Juck, the warm and attentive GM who’s got one of those faces that reminds you of a celebrity but you can’t quite figure out which one…a combination of Kyle MacLachlan and Christopher Walken, with maybe a dash of Dustin Hoffman…but I digress. The stars of the restaurant are clearly chefs German Lucarelli and Carolina Perego.

Daunted by the extensive dinner menu, my dining partner and I turned to Jozef to help guide us in the right direction. For our appetizers, we went with the Aragosta, a warm Maine Lobster on top of a vegetable gazpacho, flavored with mint and salmon caviar ($19), and the Cappesanta, a trio of seared scallops with sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes) puree topped with black truffles ($18).

I took photos of each dish as they arrived, not knowing that Montenapo’s website provided much better looking ones! I’ve decided to show you both anyway. It won’t be hard to figure out which ones were taken with my iPhone…



The Aragosta consisted of a satisfying portion of warm, tender lobster flesh floating on a chilled tomato-flavored gazpacho, accentuated with fresh mint leaves and chives. The perfect appetizer for the summer season: light, fresh and bursting with flavor.

My appetizer, the Cappesanta was a more autumnal dish, but delicious nonetheless. Three seared sea scallops perched on top of sunchoke puree. If you’re not familiar with sunchokes, they’re basically sunflowers that taste a bit like artichokes. Not particularly flavorful in my opinion, but that was more likely because the dish was clearly dominated by the earthy flavors of the shaved black truffles that crowned the trio of scallops. The crunchy truffles accentuated the dish’s overall earthy, nutty scent and taste and brought the dish some much needed pizzaz.



Moving along, we decided to split a pasta dish, and picked the Mezzaluna, half moon ravioli stuffed with ricotta, parmesan, mint and honey and bathed in tomato sauce ($17). I was intrigued by the addition of mint and honey to what would have been an otherwise ho-hum ravioli dish. And indeed, the ravioli (which was said to have been made “on the premises”) was sweet and deliciously cheesy, but the intense flavor of the mint was what really elevated the dish to something different, and more flavorful.


For our main course, my dining partner enjoyed the Salmone, caper-crusted Alaskan Wild salmon, served with sautéed artichokes, white asparagus, and spring onions, drizzled with olive oil ($32). Another great seasonal choice – the salmon was fresh and we both loved the crumbly briny taste of the caper crust.



Once again, not surprisingly, I picked the heavier, more wintery dish – the Osso Bucco ($39). This Osso Bucco was done Milanese style, with the tender braised veal shank resting on a bed of saffron risotto. I don’t think I’ve ever had a heartier, more tender veal shank. The buttery meat just melted in my mouth. The strongest flavor in this dish though was undoubtedly the Iranian saffron in the risotto. But as an Iranian myself, I’m obviously biased to its flavor. The saffron threads flavoring the sticky risotto brought such a decadent richness to the dish that I couldn’t help but feel like I was dining on a feast for Kings. It was an exceptional dish.


Despite being completely satiated, we couldn’t leave without sampling Montenapo’s dessert. And so we ordered three of them: La Mela (baked organic apple served in puff pastry crust with caramel chiffonade and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, $10), Giorno e Notte (black and white chocolate mousse with a drizzle of acai berry sauce, $10) and Tiramisu ($9). Pastry chef Carolina Perego stopped by to describe the sampling of masterpieces that were displayed before us. They were almost too pretty to eat. Almost. We started by digging into the Mela, which was more or less a sweet, caramelized tarte tatin with a spun-sugar crown on top. The combination of warm apple and cold vanilla ice cream is one of my favorites, and this one didn’t disappoint. There was something particularly flavorful about the apple – perhaps it was its much touted organic-ness, or the fact that it had been baked, soaking in its yummy juices, for hours.

We then moved on to the chocolate mousse. To my pleasant surprise, the mousse consisted significantly more of dark chocolate than white. It was rich and light at the same time, with a bit of chocolate cake thrown in. The acai berry sauce was a welcome, unconventional addition.


And then, there was the Tiramisu. As a serious tiramisu connoisseur, I had pretty much given up on finding an “authentic” tiramisu in New York. Time and time again, I order the Italian dessert staple, only to find that it was cut like a piece of cake, with sponge cake used instead of lady fingers, and American coffee instead of espresso, and cheap mascarpone imitation. There’s a much needed balance between the amount of “cake” and the amount of “mascarpone” in a tiramisu. Personally, I prefer the mascarpone to be the slightly bigger star of the piece, as it is in Italy. The quality of the mascarpone, and the richness of the espresso are absolutely essential in tiramisu. And chef Perego’s was as close to a perfect tiramisu as I’ve ever tasted. The mascarpone was creamy and airy, the espresso-infused lady fingers rich and light at the same time. The tiramisu was accompanied by strawberries, marinated in balsamic vinegar and topped with pepper – adding a welcome, and imaginative, kick to the dessert. Chef Perego’s tiramisu just takes you somewhere else, like the homey ratatouille that sparks Anton Ego’s warm childhood memories in the 2007 Pixar film. It’s that kind of dessert.


Overall, we really enjoyed dining at Montenapo. The Aragosta, Osso Bucco, and Tiramisu were particularly memorable. I must say though that the restaurant was severely lacking in ambiance (aka other customers). For a gorgeous Friday night in Midtown, the 200-seat restaurant was roughly two thirds empty. The restaurant’s newness and hefty bill is my best explanation for the obvious lack of patrons. But then again, any upscale restaurant in the Times Square area will bring you back $100 or more on dinner for two, and Montenapo is certainly no exception. At least at Montenapo, you won’t be lacking in space (ceilings are 23 feet high, and tables separated by at least three feet), and the view of the birch-and-moss garden is also quite stunning. I would definitely recommend Montenapo for a special night out on the town, or even a business luncheon. Just make sure you leave room for dessert.

Final Grades:
Food: A- (Dessert: A)
Service: A
Decor: B+
Ambiance: B-
Average Entree Price: $20 for Pasta/Primi Piatti, $33 for Meat/Secondi Piatti

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This entry was posted on Sunday, July 26th, 2009 at 2:37 pm and is filed under Food, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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