Note: Andrew Carmellini, the chef when this review was written, has left A Voce. His replacement is Missy Robbins, who comes to New York from the Chicago restaurant Spiaggia. We haven’t been back since, but click here for a review of A Voce Columbus at the Time-Warner Center.
A Voce is the first solo restaurant by Andrew Carmellini, who had been the popular chef de cuisine at Café Boulud. It was one of the biggest hits of 2006, scoring three stars from Frank Bruni and another from Michelin. The restaurant is full almost every night of the week. I had wanted to visit a lot sooner, but it never seemed to be available when I was. When I saw that a 6:15 p.m. slot was available on Sunday evening, I grabbed it.
My friend and I started with the duck meatballs ($15), which every reviewer has raved about. They are indeed a tasty delight, but I must say that neither of us could find any trace of the foie gras that the servers insist is in there. A pork chop with onion glazing ($30), one of the daily specials, was done to perfection. My friend ordered the braised short ribs, at $39 the most expensive entree (unless you’re having the truffle tasting). The preparation was certainly first-rate, although it seemed to me a bit over-priced, in that the best short ribs in town, at Café Gray, are “only” $38.
The price of the short ribs, however, had nothing on the wine list, which featured many bottles over $1,000, and tons more well over $100. For a casual restaurant where the waiters wear dockers, it seemed to us incongruous. I did finally settle on a pinot noir a shade under $50. I was quite irritated to find that the restaurant kept the open bottle on a serving station, out of my reach. I generally prefer to control a bottle that I’ve paid for, especially when the serving staff are going to disappear for long stretches—as they do when A Voce gets busy.
For dessert, I ordered a maple-walnut cheesecake ($10), which seemed more like a parfait. As I see it, the word “cheesecake” conveys definite meaning, and restaurants shouldn’t be putting it on their menu unless they intend to serve something at least approximating a cheesecake.
Bread service came in the form of addictive warm home-made bread and olive oil, although there wasn’t enough of the latter.
Although the menu is expensive, the atmosphere at A Voce is informal. The space is attractively decorated, and the swivel chairs are quite comfortable. But the tables are fairly close together, the noise level builds rapidly, and the serving staff gets a little stretched as the restaurant fills up. Andrew Carmellini’s upscale Italian cuisine is wonderful, but he hasn’t really provided the elegant stage on which it deserves to shine.
A Voce (41 Madison Avenue at 26th Street, Flatiron District)