First Avenue is no longer a culinary wasteland, now that Cipolla Rossa has opened around the corner. The food is cooked by a Tuscan chef who will come out and serve you and chat with you if it's not too busy. He'll also gladly share a glass of wine with you, especially if you bring something worthwhile to drink. The BYO policy is temporary, however, since the restaurant has applied for a liquor license.
The menu is divided into paninis and a regular meal (comprised of appetizers, soups, salads, pastas, and main courses). The focus is on meat, with almost-daily specials of wild boar. The pappardelle with boar ragu is amazing--the sauce is rich and meaty, with just a bit of that gaminess and chew from the boar.
Other delicious starters include the salad rustica, with olive oil-packed tuna and red onions and cannellini beans, and the panzanella, the classic bread and tomato salad.
One night I tried the special pork chop a la milanese--pounded into the size of the dinner plate, thinly breaded and lightly fried, and then covered in a mound of chopped tomato and baby arugula dressed ever so lightly with vinaigrette. YUM. Another night I ordered the special risotto with asparagus and prociutto. Pretty successful--the rice was slightly overcooked and overwhelmed with asparagus, but undersalted, needing big forkfuls of the salty ham to bring balance to the dish.
Non-meateaters will also find great dishes to eat. The best starter is the grilled calamari--absolutely the most tender and melting squid you'll ever eat, hands down. The mussels and clams steamed in white wine uses little cockles instead of big clams, to my delight, but the cockles were overcooked. There is a salmon fillet on offer for a main course--very fresh fish done exactly as ordered.
When the weather gets cooler I look forward to the soups and the boar meatloaf. For now I top up the tummy with desserts like the lightest tiramisu I've ever tasted, and the ricotta cheesecake.
The ambiance leaves a bit to be desired. The space is tiny, with only seven tables and two barstools facing a blank wall. The bus stop is right outside the door, and the condo construction across the street is not a happy view for diners, but for now I happily go there for the food. Can't wait for the wine list.
Very disappointing. Take out was sloppy to say the least. The seafood was not fresh or delicious and the portion sizes were embarrassing. This left us confused because we recently heard good reviews. Most disappointed Iâ€™ve been with an UES restaurant.