Nello’s and Trevor White
Nello’s is not the kind of restaurant in which I normally dine. It’s miles away from my downtown apartment, and it’s pretty far out of my price range. When I was invited to a media dinner for Irish writer Trevor White, I jumped at the chance to try a place I otherwise never would.
Trevor White has written a book called Kitchen Con, which I have yet to obtain. It seems to be partly a memoir about his privileged life of dining in grand restaurants around the world, and partly a critique of what he calls the “restaurant racket.” Trevor’s website includes advice such as, “When a man is served before a woman, that also means you’re welcome to leave before paying. If you regard chivalry as ancient gibberish, you don’t deserve to eat well.” Kim, my charming date, and I both wondered whether we were part of an elaborate publicity stunt for his book that would involve the lot of us leaving the restaurant before settling the bill. Happily, this was not the case, or at least not before we departed at 11 pm, at which point the party was still going strong.
So we focused on the menu, which was…long. Two huge pages of classic northern Italian dishes, each and every one shockingly expensive, to my middle-class eyes, anyway. Kim’s beet salad approached thirty dollars, while my scallop appetizer pushed forty. Those dishes were both excellent, however. The beets were colorful, sweet, and soft, and although she didn’t offer me a taste of the accompanying goat cheese, I imagined it offered a welcome tangy counterpoint. My grilled scallops were huge and fresh, and the portion was larger than a main dish of scallops at other places in town.
I had grilled salmon next, which was well seasoned and tender, if just slightly past the medium rare I had hoped for. Kim had a bizarre dish called OSSOBUCO (sic) of Chilean seabass (she wondered if she was allowed to eat this fish, what with its endangered status and all; you can see that she wasn’t too broken up about it). I tasted one perfect bite of hers, which could have benefited from a more elegant plating but was otherwise lovely.
Dessert involved a compromise, since we both wanted the chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream. Being a gentleman, I offered to have the tiramisu and share with her. The cake turned out to be bland—sweet, without much chocolate flavor, and full of the soft crunch of nuts, which isn’t what I look for in chocolate cake. My tiramisu, on the other hand, was fluffy and perfect, and there was plenty for both of us to enjoy.
Nello’s may be the domain of expense-account dinners, but at least it has solid cooking, which is more than many restaurants like this one can claim. It’s a beautiful dining room full of polite, efficient servers who handled our party of fifteen easily.
When I read Kitchen Con, I’ll follow up.
Nello’s 696 Madison Ave @ 62nd Street (212) 980-9099