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Grazing Old-Worldly Italian at 'Rossini's' in New York (photos)

October 14 2005 at 11:54 AM

MTF  (Login MelvynTeillolFoo)
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Entrance at 108 East 38th Street, Manhattan, NY (between Park and Lexington Avenues)

The Cast with Ex-President George HW Bush & Mrs B Bush

Rossini's opened in 1978 and is still owned and run by the Bernaz family after 26 years. Mr. Romano Bernaz, his two sons Raymond and Gerry and his nephew Josip Cernjul attribute continued success and longevity to "the family’s constant presence and their philosophy of serving true Italian Cuisine in an evolving and interesting fashion". Former President George HW Bush (#41) was a clent.

Having failed to get in when I visited Manhattan over Labor Day 2005 celebrations, I was determined to try out their "old-fashioned" menu and tuxedoed, "old-world" service. As it was mid-week, we were entertained by live pianoforte playing in the background. Apparently, you get opera and popular hits sung by a trio on weekends.

L - R: John, Raymond Bernaz, Tony and Wilson
Everybody loves Raymond

Amuse bouche: Bruschetta
Things did not start off well. I asked for prosecco and initially was 'redirected' to order something else because they did not serve by the glass. I ordered a cocktail but a glass of prosecco did arrive. Alas, as it was from the last of a bottle, it was flat. The bruschetta was barely passable.

I persevered because the folks were friendly and indeed, tuxedoed! I decided to choose a nice wine and leave the food selection to Tony. Here is where things started to look up.

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 1997, Bertani, Veneto, Italy
1997 was a GREAT year in Italy with all regions and wines and the Amarone from that year is just ready to drink (2005).
The characteristic bitter-sweet taste came through wonderfully. Uniquely, the grapes are shrivelled on mats for months after harvesting, and some may be affected by 'the noble rot' for concentrated juice.
Grape Varieties - 70% Corvina Veronese; 25% Rondinella; 5% Molinara
Colour: Deep port-like red
Bouquet: Fresh cherries, vanilla and maybe spice.
Taste: Bone Dry, full body and ample structure. Cherries and vanilla initially that tapers into nuts and tannin.

Starters: Warm Selection before and after parmesan sprinkle

Vongole al Forno
Clams baked with a zesty bread crumb topping, garlic and virgin olive oil

Melanzane Stufati
Eggplant slices stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses

Fungo farcito
Stuffed mushroom

Gamberi alla Rossini
Rossini’s special shrimp in a champagne sauce was my favourite. The caramelised onion in a reduced sauce was like concentrated onion soup. This was my favourite of the selection and I made sure to mop up the sauce with my bread!

Secondi: Tagliatelli with mushroom and sun-dried tomato
The pasta was al dente, the tomatoes were sweet, the mushrooms were heady and the whole paired well with the wine. Nothing more to say...

Main: Vitello alla Rossini
Veal scallops sautéed with a wine and mushroom sauce, highlighted with prosciutto and onion
This went very nicely with the wine, as did the courses before. I was grateful that the roast potato, zucchini and polenta were just tiny taster sizes.

Dessert: Cannoli
One of the most popular Italian desserts in the USA, cannoli are now seen on mainland Italy, as well as their native Sicily. Originally, rich Palermo families sent cannoli as gifts at carnival time. Ricotta filling is traditional but this had vanilla pastry cream. The pastry shell was traditionally fried. I just had a spoonful because all the previous courses were upsized USA portions.


Grappa: Ceretto from nebbiolo grape from Barolo
45% alcohol packed a kick with a delicate floral aroma. You "had" to sip it and that allowed time to cogitate and digest, as the piano played on.

Rossini's got an excellent 'WFEDder 2-Tongues' award for old-fashioned menu and charm. The food and wine selection is modest in size but big on quality and delivery. I am glad to have let them choose my food courses.

I have no qualms in recommending this stalwart eatery in Manhattan.

Photos & Text Copyright Melvyn Teillol-Foo, 2005

This message has been edited by MelvynTeillolFoo on Oct 14, 2005 12:08 PM

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