This past week I spent four wonderful days in New York City, checking out various art exhibits, performances, and of course sampling the wonderful food in this amazing dining destination. One of the highlights of the trip was definitely a visit to the New York Historical Society to see the final part of their incredible, three year exhibit of John James Audubon‘s original watercolor paintings for the Birds of America, “Audubon’s Aviary”. I’ve been fortunate enough to see all three parts of the exhibit now, and also fortunate each visit to enjoy a wonderful lunch at the Historical Society’s terrific restaurant, Cafe Storico.
Cafe Storico is a perfect mix of casual dining with elegance, featuring terrific Italian food and drink. The room itself is bright and inviting, very Italian in style with gold chandeliers, walls lined with white dinnerware, and modern-style seating and tables.
I was here with my sweetie who last time enjoyed dining at the bar, so that’s where we sat this time as well. (Seating at the bar is first-come/first-served; I strongly recommend making a reservation for a table particularly on the weekends when the restaurant regularly gets packed by 12:30-1pm.) I didn’t realize the first time I dined here that it is in fact a Stephen Starr restaurant, but the signs of it are certainly present in the polished service, great signature cocktails, and real feeling of creating a stylish atmosphere.
Cafe Storico has a great wine list, but I recommend checking out their cocktails if you go. The selections do change seasonally but one that is a regular feature on their menu is the Botticelli: a delicious combination of rye, amaretto, cardamaro and lemon. If you like Whiskey Sours, try this drink which gives it an Italian twist and perfectly balances sweet and bitter aromatic flavors.
It was tough deciding what to order after our drinks. Storico offers a selection of small bite antipasti, salads, pastas and sandwiches at lunch, as well as a frittata of the day. I knew we were going to be eating a fairly early dinner that evening so I was trying to order light, but the sweetie likes too many things on the menu here so it was hard to stick to original plans. We started with two antipasti: the marinated olives and the ricotta crostini with truffle honey and gooseberries. The olives were great to snack on with the provided bread basket and dipping olive oil. The crostini were addictively tasty as well: four bite-sized pieces of crisp toasted bread with creamy, fresh ricotta, sweet honey and tart little berry slices.
Originally I had wanted to try the house burger but sadly it was not available that day. So we ended up going for two pastas: the rigatoni with Italian sausage bolognese and pecorino cheese, and the pappardelle with duck ragu, dark chocolate and orange. Sweetie loved his rigatoni, which had just that right rich, earthy flavor you want from a bolognese sauce. The pappardelle was perfect: not too strong with the orange flavor but with plenty of luscious, fork-tender duck meat. The dark chocolate was not overwhelming but instead a harmonious addition to the sauce, giving it an almost Mexican mole flavor. Portion sizes were perfect for lunch as well, just enough to be satisfying without leaving you feeling over-stuffed and sluggish.
The sweetie can never resist ordering dessert, despite my protests we needed to save room for dinner. We ended up sharing an evil-good chocolate bread pudding, made with two different types of bread and served with a wicked bourbon sauce and gelato. This dessert had everything you could want: soft and crunchy textures, sweet and salty elements, warm and hot temperatures. Impossible to resist and a shame not to enjoy every last bite.
Dining at Cafe Storico is not necessarily cheap if you go the full works as we did. Lunch ended up being $112 before tip, but that did include four cocktails, two antipasti, two pastas, the shared dessert and espresso. If you eat (or drink) lighter than we did you can certainly enjoy yourself there with a much more modest bill. I’m sure we’ll be back next time we’re in New York City, certainly any time we are at the Historical Society for one of their exhibits. I definitely recommend that you check it out as well should you find yourself in the area.