Sometimes I just have to admit it: New York City’s restaurant scene and culture simply kicks Philadelphia’s ass. And times I have to admit it are when I discover and visit amazing NYC restaurants like Sfoglia on the Upper East Side. Last night I enjoyed an enchanting, delightful meal there with my sweetie on one of our rare single-day escapes to New York. We tend to end up on the UES a lot so we’ve tried a number of places in the area over the past several years, but Sfoglia was easily the most stunning to date.
What captured my interest was reading their food described on their website as “Renaissance-influenced”, seasonal cuisine. Indeed, the dinner menu had me salivating before we even stepped inside. As we weren’t sure what time we’d be there, I wasn’t able to make an advance reservation (they are in high demand at this small, corner restaurant) but fortunately there were two chairs at the bar we could snag. We were pleasantly greeted by the bartender who gave us several minutes to contemplate the cocktail and wine list before proceeding.
My Pear Sour was a wonderfully refreshing way to start the evening, as was the airy, soft bread with the salty crispy crust. Served with olives and a fruity green olive oil I could have happily munched on that all evening. Since we’d been snacking earlier in the evening at a cocktail party, we eschewed a traditional antipasti-primi-secondi approach and started with two salads: Dandelion Greens in Anchovy Dressing with Parmesan ($10) and Blood orange, Grapefruit, Red onion, Radicchio ($13). Paired together they were a lovely contrast – the dandelion salad blending bitter greens with the salty kick of anchovies and Parmesan, and the blood orange salad mixing bitter with sweet. Both salads were also very ample portions – as I would continue to find throughout our meal at Sfoglia, a nice change of place from some of the higher end Italian places in Philadelphia where one will pay similar prices for a few bites on a plate.
All pastas at Sfoglia are available as half or full orders, and if I’d known how generous their plates were I could have easily sufficed with a half order of the incredible house-made Tagliatelle with bone marrow, artichokes and gremolata ($15/$28). I’d been dreaming of this dish since I read it on the menu the night before and it did not disappoint in the slightest. The noodles were cooked to al dente perfection and the bone marrow sauce sinfully rich while still delicately letting the individual flavors shine through. I ended up with half a plate to take home as my stomach just wouldn’t allow me to indulge any further – and I knew we had dessert coming! The glass of Barbera D’Alba the bartender recommended when I asked for a red to pair with my pasta was an excellent choice as well.
However, the star of the evening was absolutely my sweetie’s Risotto with lemon, crab and chicory ($24) – which was easily the most outstanding risotto dish I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste in a restaurant. I would return here for that dish alone, without question. The strong bite of the lemon and chicory paired with the sweetness of fresh crab meat was an amazing combination.
Although we were both quite full at the time, we had pre-ordered the bread pudding for dessert as I’d read good things about it. The reviews did not disappoint. Even if you don’t think you like bread pudding, this had more of a flavor somewhere between a crème brûlée and a tiramisu, and was more than ample enough to share between the two of us. Somehow there was not a scrap left in the bowl.
With two salads, the pasta & risotto, dessert, espresso and 5 drinks between us the total was just over $180 before tip. Not a “cheap date” perhaps, but one of those rare times when I genuinely felt a meal justified the cost. The food was so outstanding across the board, the service personal and pleasant, the drinks delicious and the portions more than ample – a combination of factors that’s just so hard to find (especially back home in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area). It’s not enough to make me pack up and want to live in New York City, but a good reminder that it’s worth making more regular trips to appreciate the incredible food.
One final note: No photos of the food/restaurant in this review as Sfoglia has a “Please, no cell-phone” policy.