This week on Friday Dinner Series we’re featuring our favorite Italian restaurant in New York City, Sfoglia! Located in the upper Upper East Side (92nd and Lexington), Sfoglia is a neighborhood spot that feels like a hip, downtown restaurant. The food is universally excellent, especially their homemade pasta. The restaurant has a cool, rustic decor and the staff is very personable. It’s definitely a great date spot and worth the trek uptown.
New York City has excellent Italian food. Even as a lifelong Philly supporter, I begrudgingly must admit that NYC has the best Italian dining scene in the country. Babbo, Dell ‘Anima, Maialino, Osteria Morini, Il Buco Alimentari, Perla – there’s almost too many to name! But the one restaurant we continually come back to is Sfoglia. The food is consistently outstanding and the constant changing of the menu means there’s almost always something new and interesting to try.
Aside from a few mainstays – the pappardelle bolognese, the pasta with San Marzano tomato sauce, and the chicken al mattone – the menu at Sfoglia changes every six weeks or so. While the focus is on pasta, there are always a few meat and fish options on the menu as well. There are also several daily specials including a daily antipasti della casa, a daily affettati misti, and artisanal cheeses .
Oddly enough, Sfoglia’s biggest claim to fame is something they don’t even charge you for – their homemade bread. As you may know, my wife knows a thing or two about bread, and she absolutely loves the bread at Sfoglia. High praise. The outside is crispy and crusty but the instead is soft and has an almost-sourdough taste to it. It’s a great way to begin your meal – just be sure not to go overboard as there’s plenty of other carbs coming your way!
So what to get? The antipasti della casa is a great appetizer to share and showcases local ingredients and features interesting food pairings. The antipasti is comprised of three small dishes and usually includes a crostini and seasonal vegetables. Sfoglia’s salads are also excellent and the vegetable dishes – hidden at the bottom of the menu – also make great starters.
Whether as a starter or a main course (or in our case, both!), Sfoglia’s pastas are not to be missed. The homemade noodles always have a perfect texture and the sauces typically display an incredible depth of flavor. But while many New York Italian restaurants have great noodles and sauce (or gravy, if you’d prefer), what sets Sfoglia apart is the creativity of their pasta dishes. On one of our very first visits to Sfoglia, we ordered a spaghetti dish with in-season strawberries and balsamic vinegar. The combination of spaghetti and strawberries caught us completely off guard but was absolutely delicious. The acidity of the tomato sauce perfectly counterbalanced the sweetness of the fruit. Since that dish I’ve always made it a goal to try Sfoglia’s more unique menu items. An all-time favorite was a squid-ink pasta with shrimp, jalapeños, and breadcrumbs, and a great example from their current menu is their fazzoletti with oxtail, celery, apples, horseradish. The fazzoletti is such a comforting dish and is perfect for these cold nights that have become far too common this winter.
My favorite meat option at Sfoglia is their chicken al mattone. Al mattone means under a brick, and describes the way the chicken is cooked. The half chicken is cooked skin side down and the result is the skin gets deliciously crispy while the meat remains moist. The chicken is simply seasoned with lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary, and red pepper flakes.
As Sfoglia veterans who can remember the time when the restaurant only had a wine list and bottles of Birra Moretti Rosso, the recent influx of speciality cocktails and craft beer has been a welcome addition. The rotating beer list even includes some great Italian microbrews. The wine list is relatively small and mainly focuses on Italian varietals.
Sfoglia also has two signature desserts, homemade bread pudding and a seasonal tart. The tart is our favorite – especially in the spring and summer when the tart is filled with berries. Both the bread pudding and the tart have to be ordered in advance, but Sfoglia also has a selection of homemade gelato and other desserts as well.
- Although the back room has it’s own charm, ask to sit in the front room. It’s a little brighter and you have a nice view of the bar. Speaking of the bar, for parties of two we’d argue that the bar area is the best spot in the restaurant.
- Finish off your meal with a snifter of homemade “-cello.” The traditional limoncello is excellent but ask if they have any grapefruit or tangerine-cello.
- The half orders of pasta are great deals. They are the perfect size for a shared appetizer or as a smaller dinner. As someone who has never had a “smaller dinner,” I’ll have to take Cate’s word on that one.
Address: 1402 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10128