The restaurant is the brainchild of the Maccioni family, the same folks behind Le Cirque. The circus theme pervades the Adam Tihany design, which is remarkably clever. Quite apart from the food, I enjoyed just looking at Osteria del Circo.
Nowadays, you can get in whenever you want, though it’s in no danger of going out of business—the space was mostly full by 7:00 on a Saturday evening. It does a lot of pre-theater business: we were asked twice if we had a show to see (we did). The server cautioned that we should get our order in early. Sure enough, we got noticeably less attention after the crowds turned up.
The cuisine is Tuscany through an American lens, with a Pat LaFreida veal chop having appeared on the menu; is there anyplace he doesn’t sell to? You won’t pay what you would at Le Cirque, but this probably won’t be a cheap night out. The overly long menu has a wide range of prices, from pizzas (around $20 each) to a ribeye for two ($38pp).
The kitchen did well by a simple salad ($14; above left) of arugula, endive, sliced apple, bacon, and blue cheese croquettes. My son loved the antipasto appetizer ($19; above right) with salumi, crostini, and marinated vegetables.
Tagliolini with tomato sauce and basil ($14 as an appetizer; above left) is one of the more simplistic pasta dishes. But the pumkin tortelli with foie gras ($29 as a main course; above right) was first rate.
Neither of the entrées wowed. Spicy Brandy Flambéed Shrimps (above left) sound fancy, but it’s not a very impressive plate for $36. I suspect my son would have preferred fries to fried zucchini and eggplant strips. Veal scallopine (above right) was merely competent, bearing in mind its $34 price tag.
The service comes with none of Le Cirque’s legendary “attitude” towards the hoi polloi. The staff happily seated our incomplete party, plied us with house-made bread, and promptly took our drinks order. The wine list had a good selection at lower prices; we settled on a red for $42.
We left well fed and well cared for. All of the food was at least competent, and a few dishes were better than that. With the right selections you can dine well here, but it’s expensive: the bill for three people was $212 before tax and tip.
Osteria del Circo (120 W. 55th St. between Sixth & Seventh Avenues, West Midtown)