1594 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10028, 212-861-9368, www.firenzeristorantenyc.com
A stroll up 2nd Avenue in Yorkville on a warm Saturday evening, past rows of noisy bar/restaurants with sidewalk seating and young crowds reveling, brings you to the far more subdued Firenze. The well dressed owner stands outside and quickly spots the slightest interest. He corrals you into the restaurant, guaranteeing you will enjoy your meal. You're walked past the civilized bar area with a sophisticated piano player and are handed over to a smiling waiter to be seated. Romantic tables decorated with subtle floral tablecloths, painted chargers, tall candlesticks and mini flower pots are more reminiscent of a French brasserie but the food is 100% Italian.
A basket of bread comes with a dish of olives in wonderfully fresh oil. Also on offer is a tomato butter which was not a favorite but is more than made up for by the hunks of good Parmigiano Reggiano presented alongside. The special prosciutto appetizer is wonderful and the Chilean Sea Bass is fresh and tasty, served with a generous portion of sauteed vegetables. More typical fare like Caesar Salad and Penne Alla Vodka are well made examples of Italian classics. We were tempted into ordering the special dessert of fresh berries flambeed in vodka and Grand Marnier and poured over vanilla ice cream. The table-side presentation is entertaining but the fruit comes out much too sweet and turns into a soupy mess when poured over the ice cream. Certainly not worth the $18 charge. But the tiramisu was another well made classic. The service was effusively friendly but they believe their customers (mostly couples) would like to linger so no quick meals here.
We left happily full of good wine and good food and with no need to take the owner up on his guarantee; we certainly did enjoy our meal. And with so many choices on the extensive menu, we'll definitely be back to sample more!