Taking over from the former site of Primavera Ristorante in Yorkville, chef A.J. Black has sought to maintain the prestige of the original restaurant while also updating the menu to accommodate both traditional and contemporary Italian fare with Il Tesoro, which translates as “the treasure.” The restaurant is ornately decorated, with gorgeous dark wood ceilings, intricate wall tapestries, and marble columns, adding an exquisite touch of class to the venue. That said, I also found it instantly inviting and cozy, with Mario the headwaiter greeting me like a longtime friend.
Our wonderful waiter Ian made some great recommendations with the appetizers. The first was Vongole Cozze Saffron, a savory dish of mussels and clams in a saffron-infused white wine sauce. Our second appetizer was a thoroughly modern dish, the Carpaccio di Salmon e Tonno, with pan-seared tuna and thinly-sliced salmon served with a delicious champagne vinaigrette (opening photo). A.J. even surprised us with the Lobster Agrodolce, a Sicilian lobster tail served with sweet and sour sauce, a flavor that actually originates from Sicily and not China.
For our main courses, Alexa and I ordered both a pasta dish and an item from their extensive entrée menu. With the incredible variety of pastas (including several meatless options), beef, chicken, seafood, and lamb, it was hard choosing just one! Eventually we decided upon the Pasta Due (another recommendation from Ian) and the Scaloppine Saltimbocca. The Pasta Due was a pair of two Italian classics: four-cheese gnocchi and spinach ravioli in tomato sauce. These two also just happen to be my two favorite types of pasta, so to have them served side-by-side was quite a treat. The Scaloppine Saltimbocca featured three thick slices of veal topped with prosciutto ham in a white wine sauce seasoned with sage. The veal was perfectly tender and hearty, with the prosciutto offering a salty finish to each bite.
For desserts, I went for one of my all-time favorites, crème brulee. Most places flavor their crème brulee with vanilla, but Il Tesoro instead uses white chocolate. Like most of the menu, it was a subtle tweak of a classic that gave great results. Alexa had the chocolate fondant cake, a rich showcase that went really well with their espresso. For after dinner drinks, we got to sample something I’ve been eager to try for some time: grappa. Grappa is made from pomace, the leftover pulp and skin from the wine-pressing process. The fermentation yields a drink that ranges from 30-60% in alcohol content. The grappas we had were made from raspberries and from figs. The fig grappa was smoother, but the raspberry grappa had a much more distinct flavor. Both were excellent, and I have yet another go-to for my favorite drinks.
True to its name, Il Tesoro is quite a treasure, a picture-perfect spot for a fancy romantic dinner uptown. They also have an extensive wine list and a myriad of hot and cold appetizers for diners in a rush.
1578 First Avenue, NYC
Photos by Alexa Altman