Once in a while, I crave a quintessential New York experience. So, after an entire day of exploring Central Park, I was ready for a memorable Italian meal at Tony and Marisa May’s midtown restaurant, SD26, a reinvented version of the legendary San Domenico. The father-daughter seasoned restaurateurs have taken the winning ingredients from San Domenico and placed them in a chic and modern setting – one that seems to closely emulate the vibrant Marisa May.
The lounge sets the mood with glittering glass, sexy leather, and an absolutely huge bar to sit and enjoy a snack or drink for the extensive vino list presented via iPad. A specialty cocktail menu with Marisa’s signature Capri Sunset Cocktail, made with Prosecco and limoncello, offers other refreshing options. Our affable bartender made us feel welcome; pretense wasn’t on the menu. In fact, we were welcomed all over the place. How nice for New York!
Enter the main dining room with twinkling lights that emulate a starry night. Hot red leather booths flank the dining room set against black and white décor. Colorful, eye-catching fiber art from Sheila Hicks hangs above. Private party rooms on the 2nd floor behind smoked glass hints at the parties within with busy waiters flitting in and out. An immaculate open kitchen reveals busy cooks at work, on the other side, a salumi station showcases enticing dried meats and cheeses manned with its own chef who freshly slices orders.
Lovely atmosphere and décor aside, our meal was absolutely sublime. As a small appetizer, we enjoyed Eggplant Terrine with Tomato Coulis, Parmigiano Foam and Basil Pesto, a hearty dish served at the perfect temperature and texture. My dining P.F.C. (Partner in Food Crime) enjoyed homemade spaghetti with garlic olive oil and tuna. He reported that the pasta was cooked al dente, and overall the dish was quite satisfying. While he dove in, I crunched on an absolutely huge Arugula and Endive Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette. It was fresh, bright and palate-cleansing.
After annihilating our appetizers, we had to try their signature dish, “Uovo” Soft Egg-Filled Raviolo with Truffled Butter. It was about the size of a softball, so the extra large spoons served with the dish are put to good use. We spooned into the firm pasta and watched the egg run out and mix with rich ricotta flavored with fresh parsley and cheese. Holy raviolos! This was one phenomenally rich and delish dish.
I opted for a half-order entrée of Seared Sea Scallop with Olive Oil Crushed Potatoes, Summer Truffle and Crispy Prosciutto. The scallops were plump and dotted with pretty petals of earthy truffles. Paper-thin prosciutto added a pleasant salty crunch. Tender potatoes with parsley and olive oil were the perfect accompaniment. Dining P.F.C. enjoyed Olive Oil Poached Cod Fish with Balsamic Caramelized Cippoline Onion and Bell Pepper Foam. It was pure and mild, served what he deemed, “fascinating” artichoke hearts. They were mingled with lemon and some kind of flower essence… was it lavender? Is the Chef out there to comment? I must know! Entrees were also a win.
Memorable meals are all in the details, big and small. It personalizes the experience. I loved that SD26 served miniature biscotti before dessert. A little brownie, some chocolate chip, a caramel wafer, an anise star cookie like my grandmother used to make; it looked like what you’d get at an Italian bakery if you ordered a pound of cookies. But of course, what came before was so remarkable that we had to order the Tiramisu. Cool and creamy, it had a rich crunchy wafer at the bottom and a dusting of cinnamon with a dark chocolate raspberry SD26 circle on top. We put those big juicy spoons to good use once again.
Aspetta! How did a beautifully presented Strawberry Zabaglione end up on our table, too? We quickly dismantled the light flaky layers doused with powdered sugar in between rich cream and impeccably fresh berries. It was served with a hazelnut gelato what was off the charts – pure and unadulterated with a slight crunch – bellissima!
With our finales, we enjoyed happiness in a glass in the form of a lightly bubbled dessert wine with hints of pineapple and apple. And did I mention the service was wonderful, too? I relish the memory of this spectacular meal. Telling you about it was kind of like reliving it, but not really. So I now find myself yet again on the train to NYC. See you at SD26.