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Osteria Al Doge

Opening Hours
Today: 11:30am–11pm
Tues:
11:30am–11pm
Wed:
11:30am–11pm
Thurs:
11:30am–11pm
Fri:
11:30am–11pm
Sat:
11:30am–11pm
Sun:
11:30am–11pm
Location
142 West 44th Street
Location
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Arno Ristorante

Before discussing anything about Arno with the Manhattan Sideways team in the summer of 2017, the manager, Carlos Pereira, spoke like a true local. He lamented the state of New York’s transportation infrastructure, insurance, taxes, and cleanliness, only to then reveal that he commutes each day from his home in New Jersey. After receiving our education on the state of 38th Street, we learned a bit about this extraordinary man's career. Born in Portugal, where he was a bartender at age sixteen, he traveled to New York in 1989. He scored a position at the legendary Le Cirque  (in its original location) - ”I received the best culinary education in America by owner Sirio Maccioni" - before becoming the manager of Arno in 2007. Carlos had plenty to share with us about Arno, which he did over meticulously prepared dishes, including a rare treat of risotto with shaved truffles. It was like a bowl of diamonds being set down before us. As we savored every single bite, Carlos gave us a lesson on the world of black and white truffles. The story of Arno traces back to Florence, near the Arno River from which the restaurant draws its name. There, the two founders met and discovered a mutual ambition. Managing partners Milan Licul and Branko Turcinovic emigrated to the U. S. as waiters, but soon opened a restaurant called Morano in 1984. Morano was later renamed Delmonico’s Kitchen, and was followed only a year later by Arno. While Delmonico’s Kitchen specializes in meats and steaks, Arno is known for its old-school, classic Italian cuisine. There were many challenges in the years between 1984 and the present that could not be shrugged off by restaurants in the Garment District. Carlos related that this particular swath of New York has seen countless restaurants come and go, and yet the owners held fast to Arno. Even in the 1980s, when the area was bad enough that Arno often had to close by 7pm, the restaurant remained "a true testament to who they were, " Carlos proudly stated. The staff wear the neighborhood as a badge of honor, subtly adorning the restaurant with buttons and thread inset into tables, a wall of colorful fabrics, fashion photos - "This is what keeps us sexy, " according to Carlos - and various other garment motifs. So how has Arno endured the trials of time? Carlos believes it is “because we treat clients like family. ” This approach certainly cultivates a comfortable atmosphere, as Carlos claimed that ninety percent of their dedicated clientele are regular customers. In addition to the lengthy list of fashion designers and celebrities that Carlos recited, he told us that many come into the city for Knicks games and other events at Madison Square Garden, and stop by Arno for a familiar meal of traditional homemade pastas, eggplant rollatini, grilled zucchini, tomato, mozzarella and peppers, veal parmigiana, numerous seafood options, and, of course, the Delmonico classic steak. Carlos even shared that they have over 150 "house accounts, " a rarity in the present day. What struck a particular chord with me was the dessert cart that strolls through the restaurant at every meal, as I have fond memories of this practice from when I dined out as a child. It is filled with some of the best classic desserts prepared by their French pastry chef and, like the restaurant itself, is animated by the spirit of the old country, but seasoned with the flavor of New York.

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Nino's

The wood-paneled walls of Nino's convey a sense of comfort that seems well-fitted to the people in the neighborhood. The first time I stopped in, on a rainy and cold afternoon, Franco Vendome greeted me with his warm smile and pleasant conversation. He absolutely had me at hello! Franco explained that he took over running the restaurant from his parents in 2008, although I have had the pleasure of meeting his mom on a few occasions, as she does not seem to have slowed down one bit after "retiring. " I was sad to hear their story of a devastating fire in April 2011, but they picked up the pieces, renovating the entire interior and re-opened to an eager crowd nineteen months later. Known as "Nino's on 46" since his parents named it in 1982, Franco has guided the restaurant to higher culinary aspirations, focusing on recreating traditional Italian dishes with a contemporary twist. Like many restaurants in the area, Nino's gets its fair amount of regulars for lunch - and I was so pleased when many would gently interrupt our conversation, simply to say thank you and good-bye. Franco plays a vital role here; bouncing back and forth between the front and back of the house, he somehow manages to expertly run the kitchen while consistently providing a familiar presence to his patrons. Of course the mom insisted that we sit down and try some of their specialties when we returned to take photos one day. Within a short amount of time, she presented the Manhattan Sideways team with an array of dishes - from the classic eggplant parmigiana, a homemade pasta, thin crust pizza, and a Caesar salad, to the inventive truffled mac and cheese bites with a lemon aioli dipping sauce, beet-infused gnudi and Frank's special sandwich with a piece of breaded chicken cutlet, prosciutto, mozzarella, arugula, roasted peppers and a balsamic vinegar dressing. Franco's imaginative sensibility distinguishes Nino's from the standard fare; as he acknowledges, this place brings "a downtown vibe to Midtown, " creating a hipper menu with greater variation than the traditional Italian restaurant. This push to innovate at Nino's derives in part from its family history. As the first-generation to grow up in America, Franco often visits his grandparent's home in Avellino, Italy; living on a self-sufficient farm and making their own wine and olive oil, his grandparents initiated him into a food culture dependent on fresh, local ingredients. Having spent his childhood in the "traditional" Nino's, Franco sought to combine his commitment to sustainable agriculture with the values he learned from his parents and grandparents, while also giving the new Nino's his own stamp. We believe he has succeeded.

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Kellari Taverna

The stretch between Fifth and Sixth Avenues on 44th has something fascinating, historic and delicious at almost every address. Stepping inside Kellari, however, allowed me to remove myself from the fray for a little while, as I immediately felt transplanted into a Mediterranean setting. From the charming people who greeted me at the door to the far back of the restaurant, Kellari was an exquisite experience. There are high ceilings, ethereal drapes, an abundance of wood, foliage, and candles hanging in chandelier-style candelabras all adding to the je ne sais quoi of the scene. But what is a restaurant without good food? The manager we spoke with, Dimitrios, walked us to the middle of the restaurant where there is an impressive display of fresh fish laid out across a bed of crushed ice for diners to select. The array of fish changes on a daily basis, depending on what is happening in the market, and priced accordingly. A fish can be small enough for one person to enjoy, or at times there are large fish able to serve a party of fifteen. Organic salmon is served simply on a disc of beets with steamed wild grains, alongside potatoes and finished off with a dollop of saffron yogurt. Baked lemon sole came with a cauliflower puree and mixed grilled peppers. The whole grilled branzino was seasoned with just a bit of olive oil, lemon and fresh herbs, thrown on the grill and cooked to perfection, each step visible from the dining area through to the open kitchen. While we waited for Chef Gregory to prepare these few dishes for us to photograph, I observed the endless international business crowd coming in for lunch. By the time we left, the entire restaurant was filled with sophisticated patrons. Kellari means "wine cellar" in Greek, and they live up to the name, with wines stocked like a mosaic piece in the back of the restaurant. There are over 450 varieties carried here, half of which are Greek. The vibes are friendly, the food delicious, and we would be remiss not to mention the well-documented health benefits of a Mediterranean diet!