I realize at some point I’m just going to have to get over this and learn to let go. But I just can’t. The fact is, I still miss Battuto. Not only was it my favorite restaurant in Little Italy, it was my favorite for Italian and a place Jamie and I frequented often. It was just that good. And for as much as I love Little Italy and thoroughly enjoy spending time there, perusing the galleries and shops, aside from this now defunct restaurant, I was never overly impressed with any of the restaurants (I might have mentioned a few times just how picky I am when it comes to Italian). That is, until I first discovered Michaelangelo’s a few years ago.
I absolutely love this restaurant. The food and service always impress and with Battuto long gone, it has become my favorite for Italian. I must admit, the only thing I’m not overly crazy about is the main dining room decor. It’s not bad on any level, just not my personal taste. Perhaps a bit too traditional and somewhat stiff. But aside from that, I’m always excited to dine here, just like I was when we went the other week on behalf of Metromix.
Food: There’s no shortage of restaurants clamoring for a diner’s business, each touting their take on Italian fare and each trying to stand out among the array of offerings. But when it’s all said and done, it’s the food that sets these restaurants apart. And when it comes to Italian food, even if someone has a splash of Italian in their blood, they’re a critic.
The chef, Michael Annandono, prides himself on setting Michaelangelo’s apart from the others. The restaurant, which opened on Murray Hill in 2004, offers authentic Italian cuisine prepared using traditional methods from scratch each day.
The menu focuses on northern Italian cuisine, utilizing fresh, organic ingredients and local whenever possible. As expected of most Italian restaurants, portions are rather large—even a handful of the appetizers could serve as a main course. Compared to its neighbors, Michaelangelo’s is also one of the more higher-priced restaurants.
On a recent visit, we sampled a variety of starters, like the bufala salad, with bufala mozzarella, prosciutto di parma and roasted red peppers ($14) and the cozze, steamed mussels in a lemon-garlic broth ($12). Entrées included the veal-stuffed tortellini with prosciutto, peas and parmigiano reggiano ($24) and an order of the melanzane, layered eggplant terrine with aged provolone and a tomato ragu (note: this is actually a hot appetizer, but as aforementioned, portions are large and this was plenty big enough for a main dish; $9). It’s also worth noting that all the pastas can be served as a half order.
Before our food started to make its way from the kitchen to our table, we were treated to a tasting of the day’s special: paco ribs, which are the ribs of a South American fish served in a balsamic and orange glaze. A unique dish and one that highlights the chef’s creativity with food. We also sampled the veal cannelloni, ricotta and veal stuffed pasta with pancetta and mascarpone—the chef’s signature dish.
As for everything we tasted, the standouts were definitely the pastas. The mussels were perhaps our least favorite dish—it wasn’t a bad dish, just boring. The pastas, which are all made from scratch (except the gnocchi) were outstanding, especially the veal cannelloni. There’s a reason why this is the most requested dish. The melanzane proved to be a wise decision as well with its wonderful tomato ragu.
On previous visits, we’ve sampled several of the soups (the chef does an outstanding job with soups), the tuna carpaccio and antipasti misti (selection of salumi and cheeses) and veal tenderloin plus a handful of desserts. After several visits, Michaelangelo’s continues to impress.
Décor: Michaelangelo’s is quite traditional and simple overall, perhaps a bit too traditional. The best part of the main dining room is the glass-encased wine storage unit covering several walls. The large bar area offers a more relaxed and cozy atmosphere with darker wood floors, a stone fireplace and a few oversized chairs to enjoy the fire, as well as the lengthy bar with plenty of available bar seating. There’s also a decent-sized patio with a bar. This area unfortunately overlooks the parking lot, but with the right landscaping, this space could easily become diner’s first-choice for seating preference. Michaelangelo’s also offers private dining options for small parties.
Bottom line: After eating our way throughout Little Italy several times over, it’s our opinion that Michaelangelo’s is perhaps the best in the neighborhood.