45 Tudor City Place, Tudor City, Midtown East, Manhattan
These past couple of weeks have been quite intense for me. But I’m not complaining because I was lucky enough to be able to restructure my normal life around some fabulous meals and fit in a couple of much needed boot-camp style work outs at the gym.
After a few lukewarm meals that were occasionally spiked by a delicious course here and there, Convivio wowed me. From the tastefully dramatic decor centered around an elegant juxtaposition of brushed nickel tones against sensual splashes of burnt orange to the outstandingly delicious cuisine and service that reached the gold-mark standard of courteousness and attentiveness, I am fully and infectiously enamored with this place.
And in this case, the love is not about an elusive je ne sais quoi quality that you can’t put your finger on, although Convivio has plenty of mystique going for it.
It’s about an all around sensuous eating experience in relaxed chic surroundings with superior service. The cuisine is refined Southern Italian and features a good balance between imaginative adaptations on the classics as well as some thoroughly new creations as well. I was particularly intrigued by the stoccafisso cod filled ravioli.
On Friday, a friend and I had their Restaurant Week three course lunch special. Each category featured three choices.
For appetizer I ordered Convivio’s vegetarian interpretation of a beloved Neapolitan food category, “sfizi,” a food that you eat for the sheer pleasure of it. Composed of olives, grilled mushrooms, sweet peppers and purple onions it was tasty indeed. The olive oil was mildly pungent and aromatic and was better accompanied by the tong-served olive sour-dough bread slice that came from a delicious array of breads that were generously offered throughout the meal from a bread basket than the grilled Italian bread slice above. The only vegetable that I found less than convincing was the cucumber. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great vegetable with lovely skin-care properties, but it’s simply too fresh and healthy to even been considered a “sfizio.”
The duck sausage that my lunch date ordered were nothing short of spectacular. These delicately flavored, silky smooth weiners were gorgeously presented on a delicious bed of brown lentils and cubed carrots.
For my main course, I ordered the spaghetti with vegetables and molten caciocavallo. The fresh in-house spaghetti were toothsome, hearty and deeply satisfying. The vegetables of string beans, eggplant and mushrooms in a mildly acidic tomato-based sauce exuded farm-freshness. Topped with the molten caciocavallo, it made for a meal that was simple yet sumptuously enjoyable meal.
My lunch date’s grilled Spanish mackerel was very to her liking. Her only complaint was that the portion could have been slightly larger. The enormous 16″ dish on which it was served seemed to underline her point. I sampled it and was immediately struck by its freshness. The preparation did not in any way adulterate the taste.
The dessert items included traditional Southern Italian favorites.
I ordered the gelato affogato (very good) and a cappuccino that knocked my socks off. Not only was the cappuccino made with an premiere espresso bean, but the milk was foamed into a delicate silken aerated cream, which was completely fused with the espresso and showed no traces of liquid milk. Sheer perfection!
I left Convivio feeling that it was not only worthy of the glowing review that it got from Frank Bruni this past fall, but that it is a place that is truly worthy of its name, for it inspires conviviality.
Not only will I be returning for dinner, independent of restaurant week (the prices are slightly on the higher end but most certainly porportionate to the quality and the service with dinner items ranging from mid twenties to low thirties) but I was so thrilled at my discovery that I enthusiastically recommended Convivio to a friend who will be treating his wife for a special birthday this coming weekend.