Step foot any night of the week into the new Sartiano’s, a subterranean Soho Italian restaurant in the Mercer Hotel, and you’ll be disillusioned with today’s media’s idiotic claim that ‘no one wants to eat like that anymore’ . The truth is that Sartiano’s, like many high-end restaurants, will be packed, even on a late summer weeknight. Given its sexy, flickering shaded lighting, spacious booths, excellent stonework, 20-foot Carrara marble bar and display of pink Himalayan salt, you’d think that it would attract a fickle and fleeting glamor crowd – the staff themselves are dressed in blue. Sharkskin suits with navy blue satin lapels. Maybe so, but once tasted, the food is what brings people back to this bustling restaurant that seems to define what fine dining has become in 2023.
It is a Bond Hospitality project, and its founder, the Neapolitan-born architect Scott Sartiano, had the good idea of hiring Alfred Portale as culinary director, alongside executive chef Chris Lewnes. Portale is one of New York’s most respected chefs among his peers, having established Gotham Bar and Grill in 1984 as one of the city’s best restaurants for thirty-five years. His technical mastery comes from his stints with Michel Guérard, the Troisgros brothers and Jacques Maximin, and he is the author of three cookbooks. After leaving Gotham, he opened his own successful restaurant Portale four years ago.
Sartiano’s is, like all new restaurants these days, very noisy, and there is no reason to play blaring techno music. The service staff are great and sommelier David Vannatter is an exuberant man who loves to tell you about the wines he chooses (if you like) and why they are special from the impressive, mostly Italian list.
The breads and whipped ricotta focaccia ($10) are excellent, and at the top of the menu, a cannoli stuffed with mascarpone, chives and Pacific Northwest white sturgeon roe ($48) sets the tone. style of what comes next, like the silky raw yellowfin tuna with lemon, basil and crispy farro grains ($28).
A mixed fried of calamari, rock shrimp, zucchini and fennel ($26) is as light and good here as in Portale, as are the hearty meatballs with ricotta and velvety Parmigiano Fondue be picked up with Crostini ($21).
So how, in a city with so many superb Italian restaurants, does Sartiano’s differ? This is not necessary because he simply competes with the best; you don’t need to get very creative when you’ve perfected pasta like paccheri with meatballs, sausages and ribs, standing like the pillars holding up Venice, the dish costs $64, but, believe me, a group of four can enjoy it as a meal First of all course. agnolotti are stuffed with buffalo milk ricotta and seasoned with a simple but top-notch tomato and basil sauce ($29). I found one night’s 12-layer lasagna to be a little dry ($29).
There are several cuts of steak here, and while I’m not really a fan of wagyu, which is so often too fatty and too under-lean, Australian wagyu Zabuton, cut from the outer side of the mandrel eye roll, looked superb; rich, of course, but also with a fine beefy flavor, and at $68 for ten ounces, about the same price you’d pay for a New York strip or rib eye elsewhere. The veal Milanese, at $75, was a steep price, although it had flavor and a nice crispy breading. Branzino was impeccably cooked. Dover sole is served cut ($68) in a rollatin of thin slices.
The desserts ($15) are quite traditional but made with real refinement: you will appreciate the fruits Panna cotta with a crispy caramel crust, the individual tiramisù and especially the six large and tender donuts.
I have long since given up on the idea that there is a glut of Italian restaurants in New York, as it has always been a city primarily for its Italian cuisine and, although the menus are similar – as in Italy – the style, decoration, hospitality and flair of the chef highlight the highly sought-after and attractive new offerings. Sartiano’s adds a measurable contribution to this landscape with striking decor, excellent food in generous portions and the Italian vitality that makes dining out a joy.
99 Prince Street
Open every day for breakfast and dinner, Monday to Friday for lunch, Saturday for brunch. & Sun.