Note: This is a review under Chef Michael Psilakis, who has severed his ties with the restaurant.
A group of six food-board acquaintances had dinner this week at Mia Dona. We’d all been before and were impressed with Michael Psilakis’s inventive take on Italian cuisine.
Alas, Mia Dona has regressed to the mean. Between us, we tasted sixteen dishes. They were all competently done, but mostly routine—the kind of generic upscale Italian food that could show up on dozens of menus around town. There was nothing, say, to live up to the Calf’s Tongue appetizer I had last time, the kind of dish that makes you want to shout, “You have to eat here!”
Prices have inched up too, though that was to be expected. Mia Dona is still inexpensive by today’s standards, but the center of gravity for the entrées, formerly about $20, is now in the mid-twenties, and there’s now at least one entrée in the thirties. Dinner for six came to about $100 a head, including tax and tip. That included wine, but not a particularly expensive one.
It surely doesn’t help that Psilakis and his partner, Donatella Arpaia, are juggling about half-a-dozen projects apiece. The server said that both drop by frequently, but the point is that they’re only dropping by. Day-to-day, the restaurant is in less capable hands.
It also didn’t help that there were about three dishes on the menu they were out of or no longer serving—and that was at 7:00 p.m. on a Tuesday evening. One of our companions quipped, “What about spinach ravioli don’t you have, the spinach or the ravioli?”
Out of our first batch of dishes (above), I liked the Bigoli (bottom left) best, with sausage, broccoli rabe, lentils, and peccorino romano. A version of this has been on the menu from the beginning. Stuffed figs (top middle) weren’t bad.
Among the second batch, a Grilled Trout (bottom left) was the best. The skin was crisp, the fish tender, and the beet sauce elevated it above the typical treatment for this kind of fish. Lamb chops (top left) and hangar steak (bottom middle) were both solidly done, but unmemorable. Gnudi (top middle) were chewy. The server initially didn’t want to serve us Spiedini (bottom right), as they were out of some ingredients, but they whipped up an acceptable substitute.
We had two side dishes, but neither lived up to the terrific spinach we had last time. Among the two desserts we tried, a Panna Cotta (2nd from right) was pretty good, but again, fairly typical of modern-day upscale Italian restaurants.
If you happen to be in this section of East Midtown, Mia Dona remains a solid choice, especially as it’s still a pretty good bargain, even after the recent price increases. But it’s no longer a dining destination. For that, you’ll have to visit Anthos, or wait for the next Psilakis/Arpaia project.
Mia Dona (206 E. 58th Street between Second & Third Avenues, East Midtown)