I love the Lincoln Center area of New York City. Its infrastructure, the crowd, the vibe–it’s all perfection to me. Which is why I don’t know how I never realized that tucked into the back of its cultural heart was a small, sleek attractive Italian restaurant, Lincoln Ristorante. Seriously, just look at its exterior (on the right, below). It’s a glass-walled masterpiece of angles and even better, it’s helmed by Jonathan Benno, who served as Thomas Keller’s second-in-command at the famed Per Se in the Time Warner Center for over six years. (Side note: David and I had dinner in Per Se on the night of our engagement–so expect a look into that surreal experience sometime soon!)
Lincoln Ristorante has a great premise. Every few months they change the area of Italy that inspires its menu (you can see the blurb about it in the header above). When we visited in the Fall for my birthday lunch, items were Piedmontese in origin. Since I’m Central/Southern Italian through and through, I was super excited to give Northern Italian food a try.
The bread service was outstanding: focaccia rubbed with lardo, homemade breadsticks, crispy ciabatta, and a caponata yogurt dip I wish I’d thought of myself. The drinks were typical Manhattan quality, really well-mixed and designed. Mine was passion fruit- and gin-based and called“Si beve come l’acqua,” which translates to “It drinks like water.” It was true–you didn’t even taste the alcohol!
I love when restaurants present diners with an amuse-bouche. Here they were yummy arancini (rice balls) and interestingly filled with a sauce mixture similar to the Sicilian ones I make at home. David ordered a raw beef and endive salad that was a bit to rich for my tastes, but my burrata with pomegranate seeds, butternut squash, cilantro, and mint was incredibly and unexpectedly delicious. Seriously, the flavor mixture was perfection.
We both got pasta for our main course. The sauces were a little one-note but I think it was to let the house-made, handmade pasta itself shine. And they were each very, very good–mine was crafted with chestnut flour and served with a wild boar ragù, David’s with lobster and aromatic breadcrumbs.
The desserts knocked the whole meal out of the park. We couldn’t decide on one, went with two, and wished we’d have had room for another. That’s how good they were. The birthday-decorated plate housed a berlina, a soft chocolate/hazelnut/praline concoction of my dreams. The second was a crostata di pruna, or plum tart, served most notably with a tarragon gelato. I was fascinated by the use of the herb with sweets, but its faint licorice flavor worked. The ricotta fritters (below) came with the check–heaven, right?
We’d head back in a heartbeat–I’m actually surprised we haven’t by now. Also worth mentioning: the view (check it out in the last photo). Be sure to ask for a window seat if you stop by or better yet, dine on the patio if the weather permits. You’ll be nestled in a little alcove of culinary serenity in the bustling city.