Note: Allegretti “closed for renovations” in summer 2010—and never re-opened.
The fall slate of restaurant openings is understandably timid. With the economy in the tank, restauranteurs are falling back on familiar formulae, and the trappings of fine dining have fallen by the wayside. How refreshing it is, then, to come across Allegretti, a new restaurant that—gasp!—has white tablecloths, servers who wear ties, an elegant atmosphere, and entrées that threaten (but don’t yet touch) the $40 mark. Has anyone told them we’re in a recession?
The chef here is Alain Allegretti, who trained under Alain Ducasse and worked at Le Cirque 2000 and Atelier. He hails from Nice, but the culinary sensibility is Italian. Prices are on the high side, with appetizers $12–20, soups $10–11, pastas $16–20, entrées $25–38 (most in the $30s), and side dishes $6–8. Fortunately, Allegretti is a startlingly good restaurant—one that I hope will be successful enough to encourage others to take similar chances. We need more restaurants like this.
The amuse-bouche was a lentil soup that was a bit too salty. Three warm breads were offered. We both chose the olive bread, which was studded with olives and came with a very yellow soft butter.
I loved the Perugina Sausage ($14; above left), which had a nice tangy taste, complemented by sweet pepers and an onion ragôut. My girlfriend was rapturous over the Heirloom Tomatoes ($19; above right), with a soft lump of burrata cheese.
Both entrées were served with a gravy applied tableside. The menu didn’t specify how the skin was treated on Duck Magret ($34; above left), but it seemed to be a kind of panko crust. The portion was ample, and the duck beautifully prepared. My girlfriend found Noix of Colorado Lamb ($32; above right) a tad too salty, but the dish was well conceived, with spinach ricotta gnocchi, prosciutto, fava beans, tomato confit, and fennel gratiné.
There was a slightly heavy hand with the salt shaker, but we think every dish here could be a winner (several are already) after the kitchen settles down.
Servers here were a bit over-eager: it seemed that hardly thirty seconds after the dessert menus were deposited, someone was back to ask us what we wanted. It was one of several times when we wished they’d just let us relax. (The restaurant, though doing well, was not full, so I don’t think they were trying to rush us out the door.) However, I prefer attentive service to the alternative, and I assume they’ll get more polished with time.
On the whole, Allegretti strikes us as the most exciting fine dining restaurant to have opened in quite some time. In an era when most restaurants are stripping away the trappings of good service, Allegretti feels like a breath of fresh air.
Allegretti (46 W. 22nd Street between Fifth & Sixth Avenues, Chelsea)