For over five years, restaurant owner Nathalie De La Fontaine and Chef Gian Pietro Ferro have been dishing up northern Italian cuisine at Machiavelli on the Upper West Side. The hand-painted velvet drapes, wrought-iron candelabras, and wide hand-carved chairs adorned with vibrant upholstered cushions and oversized tassels make you feel like you’re a king or queen in renaissance Florence. A sweeping mural of the “The Battle of San Romano” and a live pianist take the regal ambiance even a step further. My recent meal as a guest of the restaurant was terrific. I would heartily recommend Machiavelli – especially if you are looking to impress your guest.
The meal began with complimentary focaccia and a simple housemade chickpea spread. Besides the focaccia, the schiacciata al rosmarino (oven-roasted flatbread with rosemary, sea salt and olive oil) was warm and tasty—crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
The antipasto fritto misto di pesce e vegetali (fried calamari, shrimp, bay scallops, carrots, onions and zucchini) came with a standout housemade tartar sauce that was so good I wanted to save it to eat with my entrée. I appreciated that the seafood and vegetables were lightly battered in a way that didn’t overpower (but I do wish there were a couple more scallops). If that night’s special antipasto, the prosciutto e fichi (prosciutto with mission figs), is available you can’t go wrong with this one. The figs were juicy and ripe and paired nicely with the thinly sliced Italian ham. The fresh cracked pepper was a surprisingly nice garnish.
What’s an Italian meal without pasta, am I right? Special to Machiavelli, all of their pastas are rolled and made by hand. This was probably my most difficult decision of the evening because they offer a wide selection of both classic and unique pasta dishes. I wanted something I had never tried before, so I chose the cacio e mele con stufato d’agnello. It’s ravioli stuffed with roasted Granny Smith apples and fresh ricotta, served with two sauces, sage butter and a lamb ragu. It was delicious, an effortlessly complex dish with a bit of tartness from the apples, mixed with the creamy texture of the ricotta and sage butter—not to mention the tender lamb. It’s worth noting that they offer wheat and gluten-free pastas as well if you prefer. I’ll have to come back for the tortelli alla mantovana filled with pumpkin, ricotta, amaretti and mostarda di cremona or the casunzei “ampezzani” half-moon pasta stuffed with red beets and topped with ricotta and a butter and poppy seed sauce.
Aside from pastas, Machiavelli offers nearly a dozen different kinds of pizza, all made in the traditional Italian method with extra virgin olive oil, San Marzano tomatoes and fresh mozzarella; one even has black truffle cream.
For meat-lovers, chicken milanese, duck breast with dried figs, veal medallions, or oven-roasted Colorado lamb chops are also on the menu. After spotting a colorful dish at the table next to mine, I decided to let my eyes do the ordering. It was one of the specials, ossobuco di rana pescatrice (monkfish ossobuco with capers and grape tomatoes in white wine sauce). Monkfish is a mild and meaty white fish; Machiavelli’s was prepared with the bone in. The flavors in the dish overall were divine. The white wine sauce was zesty and slightly creamy, and the capers and tomatoes made it bright and fresh.
If you just have to have red wine with Italian food, like I do, I recommend the Chianti for a smooth medium-bodied wine, boasting red fruits, or the Refosco Dal Peduncolo, for those who prefer complex, fuller-bodied earthy wines.
I somehow managed to save room to try a couple of desserts and they did not disappoint! The amaretto panna cotta with a raspberry drizzle melts in your mouth and the tiramisu is of course a staple to any Italian restaurant—theirs is one of the better ones I’ve had in the city. Topped off with an espresso, Machiavelli serves a meal truly meant for royalty.
Machiavelli, 519 Columbus Avenue (corner of 85th Street), NYC.
Photos courtesy of Machiavelli