I was in New York City recently to recruit participants for my dissertation research and dined at Felidia, Lidia Bastianich's restaurant. I adore her and have watched her PBS cooking show Lidia's Italy for years. (Is it strange that I ate by myself and also took the 5:45pm open reservation because I wouldn't have been able to get in for a later seating!?)
Mario Batali is another one of my favorite chefs (see blog posts about his NYC restaurants Po, and Del Posto) and he has teamed up with Lidia and her son to open a winery in Tuscany. I didn't get to sample wine from La Mozza Winery but I did try the 2009 Bastianich Rose. It was nice and not sweet at all. The Bastianich family has had a winery in Fruili since 1997.
Felidia's chef is Fortunato Nicotra. He started there in 1995 and Ruth Reichl gave him three stars in her review for the New York Times after he had been there only three months.
I ordered the chef's pasta tasting (someone loves food a little too much) and this gave me a chance to try four small dishes of different pasta. Note: Chef's pasta tasting is only available Monday through Thursday. Felidia is an Italian restaurant and famous for pasta! Unfortunately, my pictures of the dishes didn't turn out too well because the ambiance is such that the lighting is low. That's okay because I took notes on the dishes in order to share the experience with you.
The first "taste" of pasta was Lidia's signature dish: cacio e pere. It is ravioli filled with pear and fresh pecorino, topped with aged pecorino and crushed black pepper. It had an amazing, sweet finish with a tart aftertaste.
The second taste was minestra di pesca. This dish included lobster broth, scallops, shrimp and several types of pasta. Apparently this is a sort of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink dish. One makes it using a combination of whatever fresh seafood is on hand with whatever uncooked pasta is left over from the week. It was delicious and had such a nice presentation. It was served to me from a single serving copper pot and had a hint of spice to it which was nice because I was freezing from walking around New York City in frigid temperatures.
The third taste was pappardelle. This is wide pasta made from spinach with a duck and mushroom sauce. The Hudson Valley moulard duck (from a cage-free duck farm) was braised and shredded with a mushroom-base sauce. I've never been a fan of mushroom sauce but the duck was perfectly cooked and I adored the texture and flavor of the pappardelle.
The fourth and final pasta taste was the evening's special: wild boar ragu with spicy andouille sausage. Andouille is smoked sausage made from pork and commonly used in gumbo. This dish was fantastic. It wasn't too spicy and had a rich, hearty flavor. My favorite pasta was Lidia's signature.
While the food was lovely and memorable, I was particularly impressed with the service. Sometimes if a woman dines alone, the server might not be as attentive because they think the bill will be smaller. There wasn't a hint of that and each dish was thoroughly explained when presented. I had high hopes for Felidia since I'm such a fan of Lidia and I was not disappointed! This was an impressive dining experience.