Nothing seems so impossible to keep up with as the number of new restaurants opening in New York on a week-by-week basis in almost every borough. But when a restaurant of the high polish of Rampoldi opens across from Lincoln Center it is a leap of faith. Rampoldi is the first branch of a restaurant of the same name opened in 1946 in Monaco’s Carré d’Or, where it drew those in post-war Europe who still had money to its tables and it became a notable spot for notables to dine in the little kingdom.
Now its New York owners, MC Hospitality Group, have debuted Rampoldi on this side of the Atlantic and brought over the original’s heralded chef, Antonio Salvatore (also as a partner), who has won acclaim for his namesake La Table d’Antonio Salvatore Au Rampoldi restaurant set below Rampoldi. (MC also runs Casa Limone and re-opened The Atlantic Grill attached to Rampoldi in New York.) One can only imagine Miami and Vegas are in the offing.
There are similarities in the two Rampoldis’ design, with nicely modulated lighting that allows you to see everyone in the room, high ceilings, custom furniture from Milan’s Fratelli Boffi, Rosso Imperiale Italian marble on the floors and wall panels, and Murano glass chandeliers. Designer Domingo Zapata created a triptych of the Mona Lisa “to pay homage to Grace Kelly,” though I don’t quite get the connection. There is a fabulous looking bar area and a unique open pâtisserie.
Linens and tablesettings are of fine quality, though the thick Murano water goblets look more like they came from the Vermont Country Store. On the table is a bottle of signature Puglian olive oil as beautiful as a classic bottle of Chanel No. 5.
The wine list immediately ranks with the best in the city, and prices are comparable to others at this level.
Salvatore, who is from Basilicata, does not reproduce any dishes from his namesake restaurant that would show his uniqueness as a chef, but the menu in New York is nearly an exact copy of Rampoldi in Monaco; the prices are almost identical, too, and comparable to any restaurant in town with this kind of posh, which is to say, as high as any in New York. Portions, on the other hand, are notably generous.
The menu is phrased as “modern Monegasque,” meaning a Riviera blend of French and Italian foods and ingredients, many flown to New York, including Salvatore’s own label caviar. There is an entire section devoted to carpaccios, including yellowfin tuna with guacamole and tomato chutney ($29), and a glistening sheet of tangy octopus ($24) with lemon, celery, tomato, olives, capers and pistachios. In addition there is an array of tartares, of which the crab with avocado, gazpacho, salmon roe and brioche was outstanding (as it should be for $42).
The chef loves using autumn’s black truffles on dishes like plump snails à la bourguignonne with truffled potato puree ($29), and a pizza with mozzarella cream à la truffe ($43). Truffles also appear on risotto with wild mushrooms, garlic and parmesan fondue ($47, and figure into a luscious dish of sea scallops with a cauliflower puree ($52).
Listed on the meu is “Sole à la meunière” at ($79), but it does not claim it to be Dover sole, which might justify the price. Whatever kind of sole I was served did not come to the quality of well-fatted, firm-fleshed sole and had a mealy texture.
Roasted leg of lamb with roasted potatoes is a hearty winter’s dish ($59) and, though I did not try it, it’s good to see filet of beef Rossini, with red wine sauce, more truffles, seared foie gras and truffle potato puree on a menu ($79). From the grill section comes chicken ($39), filet mignon ($59), branzino for two ($98) and a huge tomahawk steak for two ($220).
The desserts from that big open kitchen have classic status, among them a chocolate fondant cake with pear sorbet ($18); apple-thatched Tarte Tatin with a rich vanilla ice cream ($18), profiteroles with dark chocolate sauce ($19), and a lemon meringue with lemon mousse on sponge cake ($17).
At the prices charged, to succeed and thrive in New York, Rampoldi is going to have to attract a celebrity and show biz crowd beyond those in the neighborhood who come for the occasional splurge. When I visited I didn’t see any rap stars, TV hosts or Kardashians, but then I wouldn’t know them if I tripped over them. Once Rampoldi gets its act together and smooths out the kinks of service, it should be able to stand on its own without need of celebrities. I was told Salvatore flies over about once a month—which can be grueling—but he was not in New York when I visited. To create some buzz Salvatore should spend as much time on this side of the ocean as possible, carouse with his chef colleagues and food media to better get to know the New York market.
49 W 64th Street
Open for dinner Tues.-Sun; Brunch Sat. & Sun.