On the Road with Bay Gourmet

By Mika Chall

Besotted by the brilliance and artistry of a zillion dollars worth of Van Cleef and Arpels’ gems on display at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, it was time to turn my attention from accessories to necessities. Namely, lunch.

 Although the Upper East Side is not hailed as the nexus of fine dining, I remembered the name of a neighborhood Italian restaurant that was described by food warrior friends as, forgive the cliché, worth the detour.

 SFOGLIA (135 E. 92ND @ Lexington Ave) is a jewel of a restaurant, serving both lunch and dinner, with lunch being the best time to land a table or grab a seat at the very inviting pistachio-colored bar. The setting is rustic and unpretentious, with fewer than 12 tables, all unmatched, and elegant Murano chandeliers. During the day, large windows allow the sun to illuminate the room.

 A la carte menus for both lunch and dinner feature a selection of antipasti, pastas, mains and seasonal vegetables. Management has embraced the notion of seasonal offerings, sourcing their produce from the local greenmarket.

 My lunch included an abundant serving of clams, sauced with Calabrian chile and parsley, with the perfect hint of fire to make me take notice. Fluffy wheat bread, with the crunchiest of crusts, had just come out of the oven and made an excellent vehicle for soaking up the last droplets of sauce. An order of supple pappardelle was served with complex-flavored Bolognese.  Not your nonna’s Bolognese, but a mixture of pork, veal, lamb and bits of chicken liver; it’s extremely rich and quite filling. Fresh asparagus was served with house-made ricotta and lemon thyme dressing and was another beautiful contrast of flavors and textures. The wine list is well edited and well priced, featuring mostly Italian selections.

Although Sfoglia is a bit of a splurge at lunch, the quality of the food, service and unpretentious ambience make it worthy of a recommendation and a repeat visit.

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