A Sicilian Gem on the Upper East Side


wild striped bassAs a “foodie,” traveling to Italy you are inspired by its history and culture. There is no shortage of great food, wine and spirits gathered from the local purveyors in each and every area.  The Italian people are warm, welcoming and accommodating.

83 ½, located at 345 East  83rd Street on the Upper East Side embodies that persona with delicious food, wonderful ambiance and culture. Their commitment to use only the finest products from local New York City providers when available, exemplifies their passion for quality and freshness.

On a hot evening last week, we had the pleasure of meeting owner Vincenzo Mangiafridda and tasting the delicious Sicilian-inspired creations from Chef Will Foden. For Vincenzo, 83 ½ is truly a labor of love and a longtime dream come true.

Vincenzo comes from a family of food providers in the neighborhood and his boyhood dream was to recreate a true Italian experience in a restaurant of his own.

Upon entering 83 ½, we were greeted warmly and escorted to a lovely table near the window, where we could enjoy the view of the open kitchen (which we loved as it creates the feeling of dining in a private home), as well as the dining room. The decor is warm, yet modern and the ambient lighting gives it just the right mood for an intimate dinner with friends or family.

Since we were cooling down from our walk to the restaurant, we decided to start off with some cocktails, and their menu is filled with creative blends made with mostly local spirits. Each creation sounds as appealing as the next, so it wasn't easy to choose.  We ended up selecting the Summer Spritzer (white wine, house made limoncello, melon puree, basil syrup and ginger beer) since it sounded light and refreshing and the Local G&T (Glorious Gin, muddled cucumber, Tomr's Tonic, Hella Bitter Citrus and club soda). The spirits and tonic are both produced in NYC and made for wonderful cocktails. We were both happy with our choices and will certainly be back for more.

In addition to the cocktail menu, the wine list, expertly designed by Jean-Luc Le Du, has excellent choices to accompany every dish.

83 and 1/2 lamb spiediniOur meal started with some of the ‘Stuzzicares,’ or small plates.  We love small plates since they give us the opportunity to “graze” on several choices. FYI… Some of the Stuzzicares are available at Happy Hour for $1.00 a piece, along with ½ priced drink specials (from 4-7 PM daily!)—a great way to try 83 ½.

The Caponata made with eggplant, celery, onion, raisin, pine nuts and capers was a delicious surprise. Typically made with tomato, this Caponata was exquisitely different and crave-able.  A particularly favorite choice was the “melt in your mouth” Lamb Spiedini. Some other great options are the Baccala Fritto and the Crispy Tomato Risotto Fritters.

Next we moved onto the Antipasti selections which looked too good to pass up.  We opted for the Salmon Crudo, a special, which was elegantly prepared and delicious, as well as the tender and tasty Squid alla Plancha.

gnocchiWe knew pasta was a must, so we shared the Gnocchi made with chanterelle mushrooms, roasted corn and ricotta salata.  It was the perfect choice, light as a feather, yet somehow rich and decadent with the preparation.

As a secondi we pondered the Chicken alla Griglia with fried peppers, polenta fritta, lemon and honey, but instead we opted to share the Wild Striped Bass made with braised artichokes, steamed cockles, salsa verde and arugula—exquisitely prepared and a great, light, satisfying choice.

We concluded our meal with delicious coffee and some homemade gelato—the ideal finish to a wonderful meal.

We thoroughly enjoyed our dining experience from start to finish. 83 ½ is more than just a great restaurant, there is a sense of welcome and customer service that makes you feel at home. As longtime residents of the Upper East Side we are happy to have this delightful addition to the Italian Restaurant scene and we are already planning our next visit.

83 1/2 is located at 345 E 83rd St, New York, NY

For reservations call:(212) 737-8312