What a change in NYC dining since COVID! Outdoor dining everywhere you look. Love how our city looks like Paris, Rome, and most of Europe with these great outdoor cafes and restaurants. Some of my favorite restaurants have closed and others have opened in their place. We will miss our old regulars but love the new restaurant as well. Below is the list of the ones we now frequent. They all make you yearn to return over and over again.

Ci Siamo – 440 W 33rd St Suite #100 – https://www.cisiamonyc.com/ The amazing Chef Hillary Sterling opened this new restaurant for Danny Meyer. I have been dining at Chef Hillary’s previous restaurant, Vic’s, for the past eight years and would follow her anywhere. She is serving her delicious Italian food with a broadened menu, and intensified her cooking with a new tool — an open, wood-burning hearth that looks wide enough to roast a wild boar. The fireplaces’ smoke and its range of heat, from warm to scorching, changes the way you experience each dish.  She has the natural skill to light up every taste bud at once; with the contrasts of flavor from briny olives, acidic lemons and heat from Calabrian chiles. No wonder it is packed every single night (and was awarded the NYT Top Ten New Restaurants in 2022)!

Ci Siamo Appetizers

Portale – 126 W 18th St – https://www.portalerestaurant.com/ The famous Chef Alfred Portale, who spent 35 years gathering a passionate following at the Michelin Starred Gotham Bar and Grill, struck out on his own opening this innovative Italian restaurant. This is what casual fine-dining should be! It’s a lovely space that is elegant and deeply intimate at the same time, where you feel at home the minute you enter. Potale is not bound by any set cooking tradition and his mouth watering dishes showcase his innovative style. Don’t miss the homemade bread, the Lumache pasta, the tuna tartare, his perfectly cooked octopus, the ricotta meatballs, and any of the mains (if he offers the steak as a special, don’t miss it!).

A Pasta Extravaganza

Oceans – 233 Park Ave South -/https://oceansnewyork.com/ Our favorite seafood restaurant in NYC. Park Avenue South is lined with restaurants—from large extravagant expense account settings to the massively trendy—but this dining room will stop you in your tracks. First with its looks (an inviting bar that anchors the room up front, while the back is crowned by a raw bar and sushi counter and intimate tables) and then the cooking… Not only is the Sushi & Sashimi excellent but the other dishes must not be missed. Must haves: Tuna Tartare, Shrimp Scampi, Charred Octopus, Crab Cakes, Braised Lamb Casarecce (yes, not seafood but the best pasta dish you may have eaten), and the Hawaiian Walu.

Oceans Dining Room

Carlotto – 100 E 19th St. – https://carlottonewyork.com/ – The owners of Oceans recently opened this wonderful Italian restaurant right next door. It’s space is small, warm and cozy and the food so delicious you want to eat there every night. If you love sexy, romantic, hotel bars this is the place for you (and you can reserve a seat there for dinner. The staff makes you feel at home immediately and the majority are some of my favorites from Oceans. They have an interesting wine list, mainly Italian, so let them recommend some of their great selections. Don’t miss the Tuna Stuffed Peppers, Crispy Potatoes “Millefolgie”, Fried Artichokes, Beef Carpaccio, Pinsa Romana, and any of the Pastas.

Carlotto Dining Room

The Musket Room – 265 Elizabeth St – https://www.musketroom.com/ Chef Mary Attea replaced the original New Zealand chef, Matt Lambert, in early 2020 but it took me till now to become aware of it (blame it on COVID)! She has a regular à la carte menu and two tasting menus, one vegan and one not. Yet the place is much more casual and fun than some of the other restaurants with tasting-menus. The rooms energy radiates from the bar, where Chuck and I love to dine. The space is rustic, and stunning at the same time, and the service is relaxed. And the food…yummy – contemporary, subtle, and delicious; turned out by an all female-led kitchen team. If on the menu, don’t miss the uni toast with poached shrimp and Calabrian chili, or quail with za’atar and fennel.

Vic’s – 31 Great Jones Street – https://www.vicsnewyork.com/ Even though Chef Hillary left we still love this restaurant and frequent it on a regular basis. The restaurant attracts a lively young clientele, is casual and comfortable, the staff extremely friendly, and the food really good. They have a seasonal approach to pizzas, pastas, and many other dishes in a fun Noho setting.

Vic’s Wood Oven Pizza

Tomino Taberna Gallega – 192 Grand Street – https://www.tominonyc.com/ A little bit of Barcelona in NYC! The best G&T’s in town with a large Gin selection, great wines and food. This is a treasure trove of delicious tapas from Northwestern Spain. Head directly to the roomy bar, visit with the friendly bartenders, and enjoy the great Spanish art of Tapas. Order the Croquetas, Pulpo, Empanada, Patatas Bravas, Jamon and Pan con Tomate, and the Menestra de Verduras. We Brunch here most Sundays, so see you at the bar!

Tapas Tomino Style

Pastis – 52 Gansevoort Street – https://pastisnyc.com/ Our other favorite place for Brunch and the best restaurant in the Meat Packing District (which actually doesn’t say a lot as I wouldn’t eat in any of the other restaurants!). But we do enjoy the French Bistro atmosphere, people watching, good friendly service and food that reminds you of the old Paris.

Pastis Bar and Dining Room

Ai Fiori – 400 5th Ave #2 – https://aifiorinyc.com/ For that special night, or just a mid-week splurge, this restaurant is the place to go. Italian fine dining from Chef Michael White with an incredible wine cellar (Wine Spectator Award Winner). Space is lovely, but of course I love the bar. You can either have the prix fixe ($120) menu or order a la carte. Whatever way you go there are two dishes you can’t miss; Polipo (octopus, black garlic, pesto, tomato beluga lentil) and the Agnello (rack of lamb with seasonal vegetables). Of course, all the pastas are delicious.

Ai Fiori Rack of Lamb

Minetta Tavern – 113 MacDougal Street – https://www.minettatavernny.com/ – A renovated 100 year old Tavern that was THE restaurant when it opened in 2009 but is still extremely popular (though with more tourists than originally). Still a charming space, with quality cooking. Meat is the thing to order, especially the famous Black Label Burger (my favorite) with a great bottle of Bordeaux!

Minetta Tavern Dining Room
Black Label Burger

Union Square Cafe – 101 E 19th Street – https://www.unionsquarecafe.com – Danny Meyers first restaurant, located near Union Square, moved a few years back to its new location on East 19th Street. Same chef since 2007, same amazing service, and same warm atmosphere (even moved the original bar to this location, my favorite place to dine). The vibe is casual formal, if that makes any sense, since you feel like you’ve dined here many times even your first visit. It’s a great place for a romantic dinner or a fun evening with friends over too many cocktails. Brunch is great also, have the tuna tartare or a burger and beer!

Union Square Cafe – front room and bar

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